Thanks to the hard work of Neli’s legal team, advocates, Virginia legislators, and Governor McAuliffe, we can report today that Neli is now getting the support he needs.
He was transferred to the treatment facility on Monday, February 2, 2015, and his attorney reports that he is now settled in, relaxed, and ready to start the hard work of getting his life back in order.
Reginald “Neli” Latson, a young man with Autism and Intellectual Disability, has been incarcerated since August 2013 as a result of behavior that results from his disability. He has been held in solitary confinement for most of that time and is presently at a Virginia state prison.
Neli is not a criminal. He does not belong in a jail or a prison. His tragic situation is the result of events surrounding his initial detention which occurred, ironically, while waiting for the public library to open, and from subsequent mental health crises resulting from his confinement.
“In effect Neli spends 24 hours a day locked in a segregation cell with minimal human contact for the ‘crime’ of being autistic,” his lawyers wrote to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Absent intervention, there is every reason to think he will remain there until the opportunity for effective treatment has been lost.” (Read more- “Ruth Marcus: In Virginia, a cruel and unusual punishment for autism.”)
On January 8, 2015, Neli pleaded guilty to charges of assault and violation of probation as part of a plea agreement; this resulted in an additional 6 months in prison beyond his initial sentence (ending February 23, 2015), in addition to 10 years of probation. Upon completion of the 6 month sentence, Neli will be released to AdvoServ, a secure treatment facility in Florida where he will receive the supports he needs to get his life back on track.
Governor Terry McAuliffe currently has the legal authority to grant him a conditional pardon.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Please join The Arc of Virginia in thanking Governor McAuliffe for supporting the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) recommendation that Latson be redirected to the I/DD service system and granting Neli a conditional pardon.
Please email and Tweet the Governor and thank him for granting a pardon to Neli. For Twitter, include the hashtag #freeneli and the Governor’s handle @GovernorVA.
You can reach the Governor by phone at 804-786-2211, by email form at this link: https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/ or on Twitter at @GovernorVA.
Dear Governor McAuliffe:[Introduce yourself]. I am writing to thank you for granting a conditional pardon to Neli Latson, a young man with Autism and Intellectual Disability who did not belong in the criminal justice system.
Pardon Application prepared by Neli’s legal team:
Support for a Pardon from Virginia and national advocacy groups:
- Dem Caucus Letter of support for conditional pardon
- Speaker Howell Letter of support for conditional pardon
- Joint Letter from The Arc of Virginia and The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability
- The Arc of the United States
- Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
- Autism Speaks
- ACLU of Virginia
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law – Statement on the Plight of Reginald Latson (1/6/15)
- “In Virginia, a cruel and unusual punishment for autism” -The Washington Post (11/14/14)
- “Why is Reginald Latson being denied the help he needs?” – The Washington Post (11/28/14).
- The Washington Post Editorial: “An Autistic Man Caught in the Criminal Justice System” (12/7/14)
- “Reginald Latson’s case points to a major problem in U.S. prisons”- The Washington Post ( 12/23/14)
- “Mental Disability, Not a Crime”– Virginian-Pilot (1/2/15)
- Mental Health Advocates Seek Relief for Autistic Inmate”- Associated Press (1/5/15)
- “Virginia governor should keep an autistic man out of prison”- The Washington Post (1/8/15)
Defense Counsel’s letters to to Governor McAuliffe:
- May 20 2014 – provides history of Neli’s involvement with criminal justice system , pleads for executive intervention
- September 2, 2014 – connects Neli’s situation with Commonwealth’s noncompliance with DOJ settlement agreement
- November 21, 2014 -update and plea for conditional pardon