My Work with People with Autism and Mental Disabilities
by Sue Basko
People know me as a lawyer for music, video, websites, etc. but there is a whole other side of my work - helping those with autism and mental disabilities.
I am asking people if they can please donate to help support my work with young men with autism or mental illness or mental disability who have become caught up in the legal system and desperately need help. I have set up a paypal donation button to make it easy for those who wish to help. It is here:
If you know anyone who might like to help, please pass this along.
What I've Done: The past two years, a series of young men with mental disabilities came along or were sent to me for help after they had gotten in trouble with the legal system. I have been able to advocate, to be a liaison, to cut through a lot of red tape, to help get what they needed. Maybe they need a lawyer, or a new lawyer. Maybe they need mental health care. Maybe they need to be connected on up with a professional or an organization that can help. Maybe they need info on how to write their own court motions, or their family needs help gathering evidence and information. I've done all these things and many more.
The U.S. prisons are loaded with mentally disabled people. They fall into the system and they cannot get out. I have been able to help a few of these over the past couple of years. There is no question that my advocacy and hard work have been highly effective in helping these people. Most all of them have been located in areas of the nation that are very backward, with few resources and "survival of the fittest" attitudes.
This work has been hugely consuming of my time and resources, and also very difficult because of mockery and resistance - a lot of people believe that the mentally challenged do not deserve or need help. This work is also unpaid, volunteer work - and also costs a lot in expenses, including the incredibly expensive prison phone call system that costs about $20 for a 10 minute phone call.
Run-Down of some of the work I've done:
Brian: For the past year, I have been helping Brian, a young man with autism, "brittle" diabetes, and other issues. Brian was questioned with no lawyer or advocate present, and "confessed" to something he did not do, just to get out of there because his blood sugar was dropping.
Brian was charged with a federal crime, labeled "delusional" (he is not) and his public defender did no discovery, made no motions to suppress, and denied Brian needed an autism advocate.
Brian is in a socially backwards location in the nation with few resources. We found legal and autism organizations that wanted to help, but B's public defender rejected their help. Brian's family is caring, but poor, sick, and have few personal resources to help Brian.
After HUGE amounts of work and putting myself on the line, working with Brian, we were able to get the Judge to finally grant Brian a new lawyer. Unfortunately, since Brian was already coerced to plead guilty, it may be too late. But maybe not. The new lawyer appointed is private and highly experienced. Brian's family is meeting with the new lawyer later this week.
The work I have done for Brian adds up to hundreds of hours over a year, and hundreds of dollars in expenses, all unpaid.
MR A: Mr. A is a brilliant young man who had undiagnosed bipolar illness. He became very manic and delusional, and did many strange things online, some of which were charged as crimes. He landed in a jail in another backwards part of the nation.
The Jail did not sign Mr A up for a public defender because he was too mentally confused to fill out the form. He was totally delusional and yet allowed to attend 2 court hearings with no lawyer. I located the public defender's office and asked them to represent Mr. A. Later, I advocated for him to get mental health care, that is, to be sent to a mental hospital for long-term treatment. This was a big deal, very difficult to accomplish, since mental health care is expensive and the county was forced to pay for it. Once Mr A was finally given medical treatment, he became mentally healthy, a day and night difference.
After two years of being in jails, prisons, and mental hospitals, Mr. A recently went home to his family, ready to rebuild his life.
MR B: Mr B has traumatic brain injury and memory loss. His home was raided by the FBI, mainly because of lies told by other young people who had gotten in trouble online who thought he was a convenient scapegoat because of his mental disability. I've acted as a liaison for Mr B in his dealings with the FBI, helped him get connected up with better medical care, and arranged for a volunteer lawyer licensed in his state to assist him if he should be arrested.
MR C: Mr C has Asperger's Syndrome and was seen as an easy mark by trolls online. He was "swatted" by some fools online, that is, they called in a fake hostage situation so he would be raided by police. He was raided, in a full SWAT situation where young children in the family were held at gunpoint by police, he was held handcuffed for hours, the house was searched and his computer taken, etc.
I helped Mr C get a very excellent volunteer lawyer licensed in his state. The lawyer helped him get his computers back and is on standby in case something else happens.
SEVERAL OTHERS: There have been several others I assisted over the past few years. But, you get the idea. Each simple act I name represents many hours of work over days, weeks, and months. For example, finding a volunteer lawyer for someone - this can take huge amounts of time. The lawyer must be licensed in that location, must know the areas of law, must be able and willing to work with a person who has mental disabilities, etc.
Getting mental health care for a person in custody in a place that does not routinely provide for it is monumental challenge, way beyond anything you can imagine. Public defenders are overworked and in most places, are in very little contact with those they represent.
THANK YOU FOR READING.