In Las Vegas, one court has made it their mission to provide an avenue to for troubled children on the autism spectrum to get the help they need. As described in this KSNV article, Hearing Master Sunny Bailey presides over a court that focuses on cases involving children with autism, particularly those who are at risk of being sent to detention centers. She quickly realized that in a majority of the cases she was presiding over, the defendant had never had any kind of therapeutic interventions to address or help with behavior.
Hearing Master Bailey’s own daughter has autism, so she has a keen understanding of how important therapy is for children with autism and their family. With this in mind, she has set up her courtroom to have a few key differences from your typical courtroom. All of the defendants are children with autism, and most of them have been arrested for either assault or battery. Instead of a panel of members of the public, her court is filled with “representatives of healthcare, insurance, law offices, and therapy.” This speaks towards the courthouse’s primary goal of acting as a rehabilitative support system for both these children and their parents.
One of the guiding ideas behind the courthouse is to prevent these children and teenagers from being sent to detention centers, and instead sentence them to therapy so that they can get the help they need.
The KSNV article, describes the hearing of a nervous ten year old boy in Hearing Mater Bailey’s courtroom. The age of some of these defendants highlights the courtroom goal of early intervention. By reaching these children at an early age the court is able to get them to the resources they need before they turn eighteen and no longer have the benefits of insurance.
Bailey recognized a distinct need for this type of courthouse, and put together a space that is both safe for children with autism, with baskets of candy to encourage them to speak their mind, and supportive towards their families by giving them the resources they need.