Reform It Now has engaged in one of its first cases with astounding results. We’re working with Johanna Burke, Esq., a New Jersey lawyer, wife, mother of two sons – one of them autistic – and leader of Fight4Autism, another NJ charity. As a result of everyone’s efforts, Tyler is free of jail, and now hospitalized until he is evaluated and placed in a much better facility.
Advocacy for Tyler began at Reform It Now almost two weeks ago, with Co-Founder Dr. Robert Angelone picking up the mantle to help this unfortunate young man and his mother through his fight for justice. The fight’s not over, but we’ve participated (along with Attorney Burke) in a major victory in securing his release from jail.
Intense political pressure was brought to bear on New Jersey legislators, U.S. Senators Corey Booker and Robert Menendez, and Congressman Chris Smith, to secure Tyler’s release after he was arrested for “making terroristic threats” and “illegal possession of a weapon”. Washington lawmakers were especially responsive to this case, and some state representatives helped push responsible agencies to finally do something right.
Confronted by police after running away from a group home where he was mistreated by other residents and staff, Tyler, who is autistic and developmentally disabled, threatened to commit suicide with a 3-inch knife. He was arrested and placed in a jail cell in Flemington, county seat for Hunterdon County, where he was held for 20 days. Jail is no place for an autistic person.
Reform It Now’s numerous calls and advocacy struck the right note, and Tyler was released on short notice last week to another facility. In addition to advocating his release, Reform It Now also advocated for Tyler at a recent Town Hall conference on Autism and with a New York attorney who specializes in cases related to autism. Famed autism attorney Gary Mayerson will join the legal team to work on Tyler’s case and secure his freedom and his long-term care.
Ms. Burke said “[Reform It Now] is ‘amazing‘ in how much it has done in such a short period!” She was also quite pleased that Reform It Now brought her together with Mr. Mayerson’s firm to create a comprehensive and well-organized effort on Tyler’s behalf.
Tyler’s mother, meanwhile, participated in meetings with state officials, these resulting from pressure on state legislators and Governor Chris Christie’s office with the aim of securing a better facility for Tyler.
Tyler’s troubles began when he was moved out of The Woods School in Pennsylvania, where he lived successfully for seven years, as a result of Governor Christie’s “Return Home New Jersey” program, which stopped funding out of state facilities and brought back to the state about 558 individuals who were residing in them. Unfortunately, the Governor’s staff failed to consider that the reason people were placed in out-of-state facilities was that New Jersey lacked the same type resources as other states, and our special needs cases were sent to them for such specialized care. When creating this program, the Governor’s team failed to replicate the resources found in the out-of-state facilities leaving nowhere for Tyler to go in New Jersey.
Tyler was placed in a group home for people without extreme conditions. Other residents taunted him, and because his developmental disabilities left him with the capacity of a 5 year old, this was for him a living torture. The staff at that facility were unable to handle his needs and mistreated him, too. Imagine adults picking on a 5 year old, and his reaction, even without autism or a low IQ as a factor – the child would fight back. His mother, meanwhile, pleaded with state bureaucrats who turned a deaf ear to her cause, giving her unacceptable bureaucratic replies and a complete lack of action for eighteen months.
Reform It Now continues working with Tyler’s lawyers to eventually achieve a complete dismissal of all charges against him, and to secure from the state, a commitment for his permanent care.
We’ll post regular updates on ReformItNow.org, as available.