Reva Kale (2023)
Autism in the Criminal Justice System: Developing a Curriculum for Attorneys and Law Enforcement
This project was inspired by my sister, who is diagnosed with autism, and the special needs community that has embraced her and my entire family throughout our lives. In 2019, Elijah McCain died three days after being put in a chokehold by police officers in Colorado. Elijah was on the autism spectrum, and his diagnosis created a communication barrier with law enforcement that eventually proved fatal. I want to create a curriculum for police officers and attorneys in New York City to highlight the unique challenges, behavioral needs, and skills of people on the autism spectrum. This curriculum will be designed to showcase the diversity of the autism spectrum and provide law enforcement with the resources they need to handle communication barriers with clients who have special needs. I will rely on testimony from social workers, special education professionals, police officers, and individuals with autism as well as their families to inform the curriculum. The Center for Urban and Community Services (CUCS) in New York City has generously agreed to host this curriculum and provide continuing education credits for students in attendance. I hope that this curriculum will continue to be offered at CUCS for years to come, and educate countless law enforcement professionals on how to better facilitate interactions with individuals on the autism spectrum. I want to help humanize, uplift, and create a safer space for people such as my sister as they navigate their lives in an unfortunately all too ableist society.
Reva Kale is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, achieving honors in the history major and public policy minor. Reva grew up coaching for the Special Olympics and learned many important life lessons from the special needs community, specifically from her younger sister, Avaani. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, and hopes to become a lawyer in order to create a more equitable society for marginalized communities. During college she worked as a campaign organizer at Evolve California, a San Francisco based nonprofit fighting to reform Proposition 13 and fully fund California public schools. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she will return home to New York City to work on her project while also serving as a paralegal at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Outside of school and work, Reva enjoys making art, eating sushi, spending time with friends and family, traveling to new countries, and watching basketball.