Criminalisation Of The Mentally Disordered Offenders

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Criminalisation Of The Mentally Disordered Offenders

Criminalisation Of The Mentally Disordered Offenders

Thesis Statement

It is a common assumption, that whenever a brutal, violent or senseless crime is committed, it is by someone who is mentally ill or sick. Blaming violent and senseless crime on mental disorders may be comforting but it is not necessarily accurate


A stereotype has developed of the 'insane mass murderer' largely due to the media, however, research evidence suggests that this stereotype is far from accurate. Much research on the link between crime [specifically to this discussion, violent crime] and mental disorder has been conducted, however there are different factors that need to be taken into account when examining this link. Definition of mental disorder is a major one, along with possible uneven sample distributions. Also, there have been changes in mental health and criminal justice policies that have increasingly made hospitalisation restricted to those who are more socially disruptive or dangerous. With these considerations in mind, research evidence can be then be examined. (Patel 2003:195)


For the purpose of this study, mentally ill offenders will be defined as those with an Axis I disorder. These major mental illnesses do not include substance abuse disorders, mental retardation or personality disorders. However, many mentally ill offenders have substance abuse, mental retardation and/or personality disorders as significant components of their overall psychological organization. This combination and multilayered diagnosis adds greatly to the difficulties in the management of mentally ill offenders. (Williams & Dale 2006)

Assisting mentally ill offenders poses special challenges. Some individuals interviewed for the research suggested that disability determination staff appear more cautious when approving benefits for mentally ill inmates. With fewer objective criteria, it is harder to diagnose a mental illness. In addition, there is a common perception that some offenders feign mental illness to obtain more favorable treatment or that those who are mentally ill can appear stable in the structured environment of a correctional setting. Some offenders also suffer from substance abuse, making it difficult to determine which ailment is the primary illness.

The numbers for mentally ill offenders reflect the confusion in terminology, with estimates ranging from 8 percent to 17 percent of the total inmate population. Taking a middle approach to these estimates and using 10 percent of the total inmate population provides a reasonably accurate estimate of the number of mentally ill offenders. There are currently 1.9 million individuals incarcerated in U.S. correctional institutions. A 10 percent estimate identifies 190,000 mentally ill offenders -- a significant population group. (Wettstein 2001)

The number of mentally ill offenders is increasing for a variety of reasons. Historically, those individuals with a mental illness who committed a crime were often placed in a state hospital system or simply released back to the under-funded community. As the state hospital population decreased due to the de-institutionalization movement and closure of the hospitals, these individuals found themselves incarcerated rather than hospitalized. Mentally ill offenders in the past 10 years are also much less likely to simply be released for ...
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