DOCAutsimApril 16, 2019 – Every day since he was hired in March of 1989, Warren Forbes has played a key role in the daily operations of the County’s Department of Correction.  Unlike many of his 900-plus colleagues, Forbes is not a warden, a correction officer, a nurse or a teacher.  He is an Office Assistant with a unique set of skills, including an exceptional ability to manage the hundreds of thousands of documents maintained in the daily running of the correctional complex.  And, like many of his co-workers’ children, their friends and loved ones, Warren is affected by an autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) include a broad range of conditions that present individuals with certain challenges, as well as unique strengths and personal attributes. The USCDC estimates that one in 68 American children has an ASD, with the rate higher for boys than girls.  ASDs vary widely in their nature and severity and are present in all races, ethnicities and regardless of socioeconomic standing.     

Each day at the County Jail, Warren works  side-by-side with correctional staff in a critical area of the Department’s operation: intake booking and records.  He is known for his innate ability to track down a document, often recalling exactly where it may be in a records room of several hundred boxes.  Moreover, with 30 years of service, Warren is the third longest tenured DOC employee.

Sergeant Ivan Lopez works with Warren in booking every day, and has a seven-year-old son diagnosed with a spectrum disorder.  For several years, Lopez has been actively involved in national awareness campaigns such as Autism Speaks.  In the last few years, he and his sisters- and brothers-in-blue have arranged for police cars to be emblazoned with Autism Awareness logos.

Lopez stated: “Almost every person that I know has a loved one -- whether it’s their own family member, a neighbor or a friend -- who is affected in some way by a spectrum disorder.  As a parent and an advocate, I believe it is critical that we recognize that people diagnosed with spectrum disorders have the same interests, aspirations, like and dislikes as the rest of us.  As importantly, they can make huge contributions to our society when given the opportunity.”

Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano said: “For 30 years, Warren has been one of our most reliable resources when it comes to managing and locating critical information.  At every level of DOC, we rely on Warren’s expertise daily, and we greatly appreciate his many contributions over the last three decades.”

As part of DOC’s campaign to raise ASD awareness, Lopez designed t-shirts incorporating both the Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo and well as the traditional law enforcement ‘thin blue line.’  The Department of Correction and its unions (COBA and SOA) will be conducting other fundraisers and public appearances throughout the year, including display of its Autism Awareness shields during community events and parades, as well as by hosting a Mentoring Day in partnership with the County’s Office for People with Disabilities. 

OPD Director Evan Latainer said: “The Department of Correction’s participation in Mentoring Day provides our clients with access to a unique aspect of county government and, as importantly, shows each of them that there are many exciting opportunities available regardless of individual limitations.”