Dr. Antoinette Kavaugh, "Juveniles", in Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers, Elizabeth Kelley, ed., ABA Publishing, 2018, p. 127-28.

Mental Illness Among Youth in Juvenile Justice System
The prevalence of mental health disorders is higher among youth in the juvenile justice system than those in the general community Research has demonstrated that 62 percent to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Among youth in the justice system, mental health problems have unintended consequences at various points in the legal process. For example, youth with mental health problems are more likely to be sentenced to corrections than to community supervision.  

In one of the largest studies to date, researchers from Northwestern University conducted an extensive study examining rates of mental illness among the nearly two thousand youth in a detention center. The Northwestern researchers found that the majority of youth in the detention center met the criteria for at least one disorder. Specifically, 74 percent of females and 66 percent of males met the criteria for at least one diagnosis. ...

Northwestern researchers also explored the rates of traumatic experiences and the diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among youth in the detention center. Over 90 percent of detained youth reported experiencing one trauma and 84 percent reported experiencing more than one trauma. Types of traumatic events the youth experienced included being physically beaten, being forced to do something sexually they did not want to do, and being in a natural disaster where they felt they were going to die or be seriously injured. On average, the detained adolescents had experience fifteen traumas in their lifetime.
Cognitive Disability the Most Common Disability in the Prison Population
Individuals with disabilities are overrepresented in the prison population. The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that in 2011-2012, 32% of federal and state prison inmates had a disability. This is compared to 15% of the general population. While some individuals have disabilities that are immediately apparent, such as those that require a wheelchair, some inmates suffer from other types of non-physical disabilities. BJS reports that cognitive disabilities are among the most common in the prison population, with 2 in 10 prisoners reporting such a disability.

Cognitive Disabilities

Even though they are not physical, cognitive disabilities can have a huge impact on a person's daily life. Individuals with behavioral/emotional disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and traumatic brain injury make up a significant segment of the prison populations. An analysis of students in North Carolina found that students with these disabilities tend to go to prison at a higher rate than their peers. The analysis found that students with disabilities were twice as likely to end up in prison than their peers.

This higher rate of incarceration may be explained by the discrepancies in graduation rates. Students with a cognitive disability were more likely to drop out of school than their peers. Dropouts with disabilities had a higher rate of incarceration that dropouts without disabilities. However, this cannot be the only explanation. 
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, Criminal Justice Section Council, and Editorial Board of the Criminal Justice Magazine Learn more.
Further Reading
Attorney seeks to defend those with developmental disabilities
Elizabeth is profiled in The Spokesman Review
Elizabeth Kelley hails from a family of attorneys. But even with a law degree, she had no aspirations of practicing after earning her juris doctorate, and she certainly never imagined she’d end up being a criminal defense attorney representing those with mental disabilities.

“There’s something particularly special about representing people with mental disabilities, because they don’t have the same type of culpability as other defendants,” she said. “They may not know the nature of what they’re doing, or they may be powerless to stop themselves.”

Kelley said the general public, law enforcement and prosecutor’s offices across the U.S. lack a basic understanding of mental illness, and those suffering from mental illness often are lumped in together with other criminal defendants.
Fatal police shootings of mentally ill people are 39 percent more likely to take place in small and midsized areas
The final moments of Stacy Kenny’s life are captured on a recorded 911 call. Kenny, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, begs an emergency operator to explain why she’s been pulled over. Amid screaming and rustling sounds, police officers smash the windows on her red Nissan, Taser her twice, punch her in the face more than a dozen times and try to pull her out by her hair.

But Kenny, 33, who legally had changed her gender but still appeared to be a man, was anchored to the car by a locked seat belt. Her life ends, as does the 911 call, when she tries to flee by driving away with one of the officers still inside the car. There’s a burst of gunfire, then an officer says: “We are all okay. Bad guy down.”
North Carolina Mother Sues School Resource Officer Who Handcuffed and Pinned Her 7-Year-Old Autistic Son
A North Carolina mother filed a civil rights lawsuit last Friday against a policeman who handcuffed and held her autistic 7-year-old son prone on the ground for nearly 40 minutes. 

Body camera footage of the September 2018 incident, first published by WSOC-TV, shows former Statesville, North Carolina, school resource officer Michael Fattaleh pulling the child's arms behind his back and handcuffing him.
U.S. Schedules First Execution of a Woman in Nearly 70 Years
A date has been set for the execution of a Kansas woman who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her abdomen in what would be the first federal execution of a woman in nearly 70 years, officials said on Friday.

The inmate, Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kan., was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death by a jury in federal court in Missouri in 2008. Her death, by lethal injection, is scheduled for Dec. 8 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind.
Ginsburg Remembered For Impact On Disability Rights
Best known for standing up for women’s rights, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also played an outsized role in ensuring the rights of people with disabilities, advocates say.

Most notably, Ginsburg, who died Friday at the age of 87, wrote the majority opinion in the landmark 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. The decision affirmed the right of people with disabilities to live in the community.

“This big moment, and (Ginsburg’s) staunch affirmation of the human dignity of people with disabilities and their rightful place in the community of their choice, fundamentally changed the course of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Covid-19 pandemic takes added toll on those with mental illness: 'We're suffering some real stuff'
For Shelby Rowe, a bead artist and mother of three adult children, the most difficult day of the coronavirus pandemic came in August.

It was the day her son, Trevor, was rushed to the hospital.

He was already battling Covid-19, and on that day, he was having difficulty breathing.

"That fear that I could lose my child and not be able to visit him, that definitely affected my mental health," Rowe said. "The pandemic has brought a lot more uncertainty and fear and given me more anxiety than I think I've ever experienced."
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers

Elizabeth's new book titled Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers was just released by the American Bar Association. Topics include:

  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Testing
  • Competency
  • Risk of Violence
  • Mitigation.