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Mother Issues Tearful Plea to County Officials to Help Autistic Son in Custody at Jail

Scream nowManaging Editor's Note:  As far as we've come with overall autism awareness, the reality for day to day living for our loved ones as they grow older is grim.   Ben (in the story below) has Asperger's syndrome. My children have full autism. The diagnoses differ. On Thursday night I spoke to a group of parents and providers at a therapy center in my town.  I stressed, as I always do when I speak, that the autism spectrum is not a hierarchy of "us" down at the bottom and "them" at the top with Asperger's.  My friends whose sons have AS worry just as much as I do about what the future holds for their kids.  Their troubles are more real world - often more dangerous - because their kids will live very much in the neurotypical world, whereas my own will be somewhat sheltered in the special needs system. I'm as sharp as a razor as I describe autism as a horizontal spectrum - not vertical.  I've had it with the shiny, happy horseshit of acceptance and awareness - that's a no brainer and an excuse to raise money and do little else.   We need paid training, media messages that teach the differences in our kids, support programs for employment and post-secondary schooling.  If I see one more autistic kid solving number problems on TV or being the quirky genius I'll scream. Are some of our kids able to that? Sure. A handful. The reality of autism from lowest functioning to Asperger's is a hostile world that does not understand them, know how to work with them, or respect them in the least.

Nancy Speer says her 22-year-old son, Ben Warren, has gone without the mental health treatment he needs since being incarcerated. (HERE)

Just outside the Santa Barbara County Jail, where her son is being held, Nancy Speer issued a tearful plea to officials on Thursday to provide her son with the mental health treatment she says he’s been refused since being incarcerated a year ago.

Ben Warren, 22, of Santa Barbara was arrested last year on a charge of grand theft auto and has been serving a one-year jail sentence. He’s been kept in solitary confinement in a “safety cell” for most of that sentence, according to Speer.

Warren was diagnosed with psychosis and Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, as a child, and his family says he has refused medications since being in jail. Speer recalled visiting Warren last Saturday at the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility. She said he has refused food and water, and has lost about 80 pounds since being in jail.

He also had large cuts and scratches all over his body, which Speer said she was told by staff were self-inflicted.

“These physical wounds don’t even touch how far away he’s gone in his psychosis,” she told reporters.




We need help. My 18 yr. Old son was arrested yesterday afternoon by the Santa Barbara police and now in County Jail. He has Aspergers, Tourette, OCD and ADHD. He doesn't belong to prison

Totally fed up!

Debra Hosseini,

Please, the mother needs to file an immediate lawsuit for denial of urgent medical care. That he has not been called an ambulance by the facility is extremely outrageous!! He is wasting away due to dehydration and starvation because he has been denied life saving medical care! Please urge the mother to act on this promptly.

Countless lawsuits have been filed for similar situations in the past that have forced prison systems to comply with reformation settlement requirements where inmates have died after being denied care.

An emergency hearing on this matter must take place with a temporary order to force the facility to call him an ambulance. I personally would be demanding to speak to the warden and calling the mayor, the governor... anyone who would listen, really, if that was my child. Truly, the punishment does not fit the crime here.

This is yet another wretched example of the multi-level method of decreasing costs and increasing revenue that we have seen come down from this countries' horrible and woefully inadequate de-institutionalization of our nation.

Us parents see and feel this burden of a complete and utter lack of compassion and education of the public at large every single day. It hits our kids and us like a ton of bricks.

Everything from the minor sneers we catch out of the corner of our eyes when we are out in public, to our children coming home from school crying after being bullied at school and then locked in isolation rooms and getting no lunch for acting out when improperly trained staff wouldn't let them explain why they were upset, to horror stories of our heavy metal poisoned children dying in public school isolation rooms, to improper restraint, suffocation, and crushing of airways, to the fatally ill-equipped incarceration system watching with cold eyes as our adult children suffer and pass on from lack of emergency medical care that they were too cold and callous to provide through the simple placement of a emergency phone call. It's all too real. It's far too common. It's all too much, and it's out of control!! Enough!

Here are links to related stories:

Ohio Inmate Denied Medical Care Commits Suicide

3 days ago: Lawsuit challenges South Carolina's use of solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners:
full link:


Dear Ms. Debra Hosseini,
Could you please keep us updated...speedy changes are needed,this young man needs to get help and support ASAP!!!

Debra Hosseini

I was at the press conference on Thursday. Nancy, the mom, in the article is staying with me. She is so grateful for this article and all the learned and sympathetic comments. The jail mental health is outsourced by Corizon, a company that has a reputation for saving money at the expense of inmate well-being. We are going to have a stakeholder's meeting soon to discuss what can be done about this horrific situation. Even the guards in the jail support the mom.

Heidi N

The mother has a right to be concerned. People do die in prison from dehydration from refusing to drink water. I would be very concerned if it were my child. There are prison units set up for those with mental retardation, where they get extra attention. I wonder if she could see if there is a prison more suited for her son, where they would be more delicate towards his special needs.

Joy Carey

Having been affected by the juvenile court system where I live in refernce to my own son who is autistic, there is no compassion within the system. My child is expected to be in control of his behaviors of which are manifestations of his disability. Then in turn, I am judged as not being in control of him. He is expected to adjust to world that refuses to understand him and recognize his needs. They scream about money concerning services and yet place blame on the parents. We as parents want and seek out help, but if we haven't been blessed with money to receive what our child needs, we are at the mercy of world. I pray everyday that I can live a long life to protect him from others that would otherwise place him in facility that would drug him and abuse him.


who and where do we write to get him out! this is a outrage!!!!!!...I know the parents have tried but we can help come on..Im a nurse he lost 80 lbs..this is just so wrong!!!!


This is an abuse by the system.They have no clue how to handle this situation.He needs to get out of there,get medical care and serve his time in the community with mental health support.Police,Judges,Jail Guards are need to be more educated in mental health care.This is a severe
punishment for this very ill young man.SHAME on society that
carelessly causing more harm upon disabled people.He is going to be traumatizrd for life if no changes happen.Is he
being abused? The family needs to keep an eye on things and
write to newspapers,tv and ask for a better solution,care.
He will die if things do not change.

Diane Dennis -

-- Begin Quote --
If I see one more autistic kid solving number problems on TV or being the quirky genius I'll scream. Are some of our kids able to that? Sure. A handful. The reality of autism from lowest functioning to Asperger's is a hostile world that does not understand them, know how to work with them, or respect them in the least.
-- End Quote --

That is so incredibly true. I find it is one of my biggest challenges trying to explain that yes there are SOME people with Asperger's Syndrome that can be wildly, incredibly talented in a particular area but no not all of them and definitely not my son.

If they're going to incorporate Asperger's Syndrome into a TV show/movie then they need to show what the real day-to-day lives consist of for the majority of us and our kids (it's flat-out irresponsible to show only 'good' and not 'bad'). They need to show what our children (and we) give up on a daily basis. They need to show and explain the disabilities that the 'masses' can't see. And the results of those disabilities. And the pain and sadness that the kids and parents experience. Otherwise it's purely an effort to make money off of a part of the population that is ill-equipped to stand up for themselves.

I read at another forum, where parents and caregivers were upset about this very thing, an 'off-handed' suggestion that there be a reality show that follows those parents/caregivers around their entire day every single day to show the relentless struggle they face in their attempts to get help for their children - especially for those kids/adults that are or appear to be 'high-functioning' because they are continually shut down when it comes to asking for help and support for their children/young adults.

Because their disabilities are 'hidden' an Aspie is assumed to be rude; stupid (because of the need for repetition in order to cement something in their minds - it's very important that I note that I do not consider my son to be stupid just because he needs repetition but rather I'm commenting on the lack of understanding/tolerance of the world in general); weird; different; etc. which in so many cases causes them to be unemployed or underemployed and to have such a difficult time, both emotionally and monetarily, after high school.

I wish the absolute best for Ben.

It's a frightening world for our kids (and ourselves) and so far it doesn't appear to be getting any better (especially if the proposed changes from the DSM-IV to the DSM-V end up hurting our situations even more).

I'm sorry for rambling...

Louis Conte

Kim's words are spot on. I also feel that the media depictions of autism are becoming damaging. What is so interesting to me though is that regular people who come to know our kids - and that can take time and effort - usually become committed to accepting them and including them in their lives.

May I ask why in the hell is a young person with autism is being jailed - for a year no less! - over a stolen car in Santa Barbara? Is there a Santa Barbara in Afghanistan? Am I missing something here? I have worked over 27 years in probation and I have a sense that something is really whacky here. You should look at the rap sheets of people who get "bullets" (1 year local prison terms in NY) around here. Unless this is Caligulla with Aspergers, I just don't get it.

This person should be serving a sentence in the community, being held accountable in the community and receiving assistance and performing community service (assuming that since he can drive a car that he can perform some meaningfull good works). Probation is not perfect for many with autism - I know that. But the cost to society and the level of suffering inflicted upon this person is out of line with what the offense seems to have been. The cost of solitary confinement is stunning - likely over $300.00 a day!

It was a car people.


No longer do we need those insane assylums.
Truth is there are fewer patients that have been damaged by mercury in medicine. And the fewer numbers means that the prison system has had to take care of them. This has been going on for the last 30 years.

I have heard that the prisons are all full, and they have had to have early release sometimes?
But then again there is no end to how many prisons can be built with tax payers money to hold the growing numbers there will be.

Once in prison, there is little choice/control the parents and family is given. they are now in the hands of the prison guards and warrens. and heartless judges.

I don't know how these parents could press the penial system to give him his meds, but if he is psychotic -- I wonder if it is because he is having seizrures during his sleep cycles. He needs his meds to sleep and probably a seizure medicine - as well as a diet low on carbs and that is not going to happen in prison.

If he is going to be releasesd in a year though, the point of the prison system so we are all told is not so much punishment as rehabilitation so they can live in society. Perhaps there is some legal recourse toward that end?

Anne McElroy Dachel

This is so true. Kim's words are really a rallying cry. I marvel at asking only for "acceptance" and "awareness" for autism, the mysterious disorder with no know cause.

While it may make everyone sound concerned, in reality they’re not obligated to do anything. There's no demand for answers or action.

It makes people feel good but does nothing to help our kids.

If we can “accept” that one percent of kids have autism can we just as easily be happy with two percent affected? Three?

This story is about what autism is like in the real world.

Anne Dachel, Media


Two womens names immediately come to mind when I consider the damage done to children with aspergers and autism in general, in the publics mind.

Thank you for putting it so succinctly.....

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