‘You feel inhuman’: Former Nebraska inmate shares his experience being Autistic and having a mental health disability in prison

“LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A former inmate of the Nebraska prison system is looking for change to be made after an experience he says left him feeling “inhuman.”

Cody Shafer, 25, said he still struggles with the ‘PTSD-like’ impact that his time in restrictive housing had on him. While he was incarcerated, Cody spent most of his time segregated from others because of his autism and mental health diagnoses.

‘They put me into a room where you didn’t technically have a bed, it was just a slab of concrete in the middle of the room with two cameras in there… You feel inhuman, you feel like a lab pet,’ he said.  ‘It hurts.  And the worst part is I know other people are experiencing this day in and day out.  And yet other people are seeing this and not saying, ‘This is wrong.’

The state does not use solitary confinement, as defined by Nebraska law.  But inmates with disabilities or mental health problems are often placed in what the state calls restrictive housing.

Inmates placed in restrictive housing are kept separate from other offenders, and their out-of-cell time is reduced to less than 24 hours a week.

Inmates in the general population group are allowed, at a minimum, 42 hours a week out of their cells.”

The article goes on to describe how his dad has become an advocate for Cody and other inmates, up to and including working with local law enforcement to establish additional training for correctional staff and lawyers working with Autistic inmates. Read full story here.