Darius McCollum, a forty-five year old man, was arrested for stealing a Trailways bus and taking it on a cross state joyride on August 31st, 2010. Darius McCollum has been arrested twenty-seven times for previously stealing or attempting to illegally ride on trains or buses, and also for impersonating MTA employees in New York, according to a report in the, New York Daily News. (www.NYDailyNew.com)
Darius McCollum is a criminal per our court of law system. Felony charges are in place, and Darius is currently locked behind bars awaiting a trial. What makes this story of a chronically criminal individual unique is the following fact. Darius McCollum is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism. Diagnostic symptoms of an individual diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome can include; impaired social and communication skills and reactions, obsessive-compulsiveness, a normal to above intelligence, overly pre-occupation with an interest, and anger and frustration issues. Asperger’s Syndrome is a life long disorder and could possibly be managed if the diagnosed individual has a strong support system in place to assist with demands of daily living.
Darius McCollum is now facing a possible fifteen years sentence due to a charge of grand larceny and possession of stolen property. In court it’s reported he willingly pleaded guilty and even offered information about another recent joy ride he took on a bus. Darius McCollum’s mother reports that in 1981 when her son was fifteen he stole an E train and drove to the World Trade Center. She quotes,”…the older he gets, the more obsessed he becomes…He’s not even aware of the extent of his illness.” This last statement is valid for a majority of individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
There’s no mistaking, Darius McCollum is dangerous due to his obsession with trains, due to the risk to the public. Since this latest incidence has occurred, failure in the transportation system’s security has been acknowledged after several news reporters successfully managed to find their way into bus yards and view unsecured buses with ignition keys right in the ignitions, ready and available. Darius McCollum happens to have a quirky Asperger’s Syndrome high intelligence and has figured out means to beat the transportation system to satisfy his obsessive need.
How should court systems treat individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and arrested for a crime? Having a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome makes it difficult to cure or curb individual obsessions. Having an adult son diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I realize how difficult it is to distract him from his given obsession. At times these obsessions can be steered towards a positive direction that doesn’t harm anyone. Recently HBO aired a movie about a woman diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Temple Grandin, who managed to direct her obsession with cattle in a positive manner, to become an animal behaviorist reforming slaughterhouse methods and also becoming a dedicated Autism awareness advocate.
Darius McCollum somehow has been mismanaged by the medical and court systems, seeming chronically unable to secure or follow any satisfying social or psychiatric treatment. Being incarcerated certainly doesn’t offer Darius a significant chance to be assisted, and incarceration could be harmful to him because of his social disorder. At this point I don’t believe Darius understands how dangerous his obsessive interests with trains and buses are. His behavior certainly hasn’t been curtailed since 1981 when he initially was arrested. Still, I’m quite certain the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would like to see Darius McCollum locked away and off the streets for a long term.
It’s been reported that Darius was recently involved in a group that helps ex-cons as a volunteer. He appears to be quite non-violent, and offered no resistance to being arrested. His unhealthy transportation obsession may continue to be too deeply seated to curb, especially if Darius can’t comply with required treatments, which he certainly won’t receive being locked in a felony prison facility.
How do we treat an adult diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome who is convicted with a crime? Right now the only treatment we have is through the regular court system, where I doubt he’s been declared incompetent as of this point. There are other individuals in the legal system with diagnosed or undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome still doesn’t excuse the crime, certainly not a violent crime. Our legal system still has great difficulty dealing with non-violent mentally impaired individuals and many still languish in the jail system. Removing them from society isn’t the only answer, especially if they’re intended to be released to society after serving their terms.
The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, in a report, states, “Individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome rarely are involved with crimes and when they are involved the crime is usually centered on the problematic symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. (View link at end of essay.)
Darius McCollum definitely needs to be restricted from being involved in any more transportation theft issues. The question remains is what is the best method to curtail any further incidences and how do we treat convicted individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome?
To further view information about Asperger’s Syndrome and the medical diagnostic symptoms, click on the below website link.
You can view further information about Asperger’s Syndrome and criminal acts on the below website link.