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AWN Condemns Proposals to Increase Criminalization of Psychosocial Disabilities

The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network condemns in the strongest possible terms several recent proposals and statements from the Trump White House and surrogates that advocate for a return to institutionalization and creation of new surveillance mechanisms as strategies to prevent mass gun violence.

In response to several recent mass shootings, Trump and surrogates have proposed expanding the use of institutionalization, including involuntary commitment, as a preventative measure. The idea behind this proposal is that people with psychosocial disabilities are inherently dangerous and threatening, and so should be confined and controlled. Similarly, Trump and Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright recently announced a proposal to create a mental health focused research agency to increase surveillance of people with psychosocial disabilities by, for instance, using smart phones and fitbits as spying devices.

The science is clear that people with psychosocial disabilities are not more likely to be violent than neurotypical people.

“Not only are developmentally disabled people and people with mental illnesses less likely to be violent than neurotypical people, we are actually significantly more likely to be victimized by interpersonal and state violence,” said Sharon da Vanport, AWN’s founder and executive director. “These dangerous proposals will actually increase victimization of disabled people without addressing gun violence.”

More important than the lack of scientific rationale for such ableist proposals, AWN condemns any attempts to divert attention and resources away from targeting the root causes of mass gun violence in U.S. society – white supremacy, misogyny, and underlying cultures of violence. Proposals that purport to target people with psychosocial disabilities are more than merely distractions; they are actively dangerous to Black and Brown disabled people of color, disabled immigrants, and disabled people of minority faiths in particular. Increased institutionalization and surveillance will expand mass criminalization and mass incarceration, which have overwhelmingly and disproportionately impacted Black, Brown, Native, and Muslim communities, and especially multiply marginalized people within these communities.

AWN is led by and represents autistic women and nonbinary people, many of whom are also people with psychosocial disabilities. AWN’s community members belong to many marginalized and targeted communities that will be at great risk of further harm if these proposals become policy. Rather than relying on ableism as a strategy to address violence, AWN supports community-informed transformative justice practices to change and replace widespread acceptance of violence and reliance on punitive measures in society. AWN strongly encourages policymakers to develop and implement policy proposals that reflect the knowledge of communities most impacted by interpersonal and state violence as the basis for reducing and ending it as we move toward a more just society and safer communities for everyo

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