Unit 7 project elizabeth hall civil committment and insanity defense

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Unit 7 project elizabeth hall civil committment and insanity defense

  1. 1. Running Header: Mental Illness, The Insanity Plea, and Civil Commitment<br />Mental Illness, The Insanity Plea, and Civil Commitment Essay Questions<br />Elizabeth Hall<br />Kaplan University<br />Mental Illness, The Insanity Plea, and Civil Commitment Essay Questions<br />Introduction<br />In the American Justice System during the arraignment process, one of the things asked of the offenders is, “How do you plea?” Guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere (no contest), and not guilty by reason of insanity are the choices acceptable to answer the question according to Roberson, C., Wallace, H., & Stuckey, G.B. (2007). In this writing, we will explore the fourth choice, not guilty by reason of insanity, better known as the insanity defense. We will look at how frequently offenders attempt to use this defense, why it is difficult to use, and the major criticisms of the use of Insanity as a defense in a court of law.<br />The Insanity Defense<br />The legal definition of insanity as understood by Greene, Heibrun, Fortune, and Nietzel (2006), is the legal terminology referring to mental disease or brain defects that are shown to exist in the offender during the commission of the offense, if considered with other factors such as inabilities to either conform to legal behavior or understand why behavior is illegal. The major rulings that deal with this issue are the Brawner Rule, noting that an offender cannot be responsible for their act if they do not have the mental capacity to understand why the act is criminal or to change their behavior to conform to the rule of law. The other ruling is called the M’Naghten Rule, which states that an offender may be deemed not guilty by reason of insanity if they do not know what they did was wrong, or if they just did not know what they were doing at all. Both of these rulings require that the conditions must be the result of mental defect of some sort. (Greene et al, 2006)<br />Contrary to popular belief, the Insanity Defense is not used very often, because it is difficult to prove. The legal definition of insanity deals only with whether or not the perpetrator understood the act was wrong, and if they have the mental capacity to recognize right from wrong. Therefore a defendant such as a compulsive rapist or murderer that tortures their victims because the dog told them to do it, or some other sort of compulsion, that understands that the crime they committed was against the law, and why can be medically insane without qualifying to be legally insane. It is all in whether they have the mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong in the eyes of the legal system and laws of our country.<br /> Problems with this defense also arise because of the frequency that the legal definition of insanity differs by state, and changes are made often by the justice system as well. Another issue is that there is minimal accurate testing equipment and procedures to test for insanity especially when it concerns someone supposedly insane at the time of the crime, but otherwise sane. There are however, a few under-tested screening tools such as the Mental Status Examination at the Time of the Offense screening, and the Rogers Criminal Responsibility Scales test. (Greene et al, 2006)<br />Criticisms of Insanity Defense<br />There are many criticisms of the insanity defense, and the American people have conveyed their displeasure at this type of defense. The four main complaints are that the public believes that many offenders attempt to use this plea, and that susceptible juries are acquitting these defendants often. The other two complaints are that the offenders are just released back into society way to soon, and that all insane people are excessively dangerous. The reality of the situation is far different from what public opinion warrants. (Greene et al, 2006)<br />Insanity is only actually attempted in approximately 1 out of every 200 cases according to Greene et al, (2006). Only one-fourth of those are successful in producing a verdict of insanity. Contrary to public opinion, when an offender is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are not set free, but remanded to a controlled facility for mental health patients for an average of three years. The last complaint about the insanity defense deals with the psychological aspect of the plea. Critics complain that should not be a legal defense, and base their arguments on the fact that there is little proven research on testing for insanity. This means that the case relies heavily on the opinions of expert witnesses instead of hard data scientific methods. (Greene et al, 2006)<br />Difficulty in Treating Mentally Ill Offenders<br />As noted by Bartollas (2002), one of the most crucial issues in dealing with the confinement of inmates is mental health placements for those needing psychological treatment. At one time in our country’s history, the mentally ill population was confined to mental institutions and hospitals instead of correctional facilities. These days the mentally ill are usually shuffling between homelessness and life on the street, local mental health clinics, and mostly correctional facilities. Because of decreasing budgets, and increasing crime, overcrowding can pose a serious block to accessibility of the facility’s limited psychological department for those inmates deemed mentally ill. (Bartollas, 2002)<br />One problem with this system of jailing the mentally ill is that correctional officers do not have the proper training to deal with the requirements of mentally ill offenders. They also lack the knowledge of when intervention on their parts is necessary. Another problem is that a mentally ill offender does not react well to the confines of correctional rules, or environments, and may just sit slumped and staring making them easy victims of other inmates. They also have more tendencies to commit suicide in this environment. (Bartollas, 2002)<br />Conclusion<br />In looking at how frequently offenders attempt to use the insanity defense, why it is difficult to use, and the major criticisms of the use of insanity as a defense in a court of law, we have discovered that public perception of this issue is not based on facts, but rather on feelings. The insanity defense is attempted far less than one would think. This is in part because the medical and legal definitions of insanity differ, and because the definition varies from location to location. The other part is that this defense relies heavily on opinion of psychological experts, instead of scientific measurable fact. As a nation, we need to reevaluate the treatment of mentally ill offenders because locking them down with violent criminal offenders only makes the illness worse as the inmate reacts negatively to their environment. (Greene et al, 2006)<br />References:<br />Bartollas, C. (2002). Invitation to Corrections. Boston. Allyn and Bacon<br />Greene, E., Heibrun, K., Fortune, W.H., Nietzel, M.T. (2006). Psychology and the Legal System (6th Ed.). Florence, Kentucky. Cengage Learning<br />Roberson, C., Wallace, H., & Stuckey, G.B. (2007).Procedures in the Justice System. Eighth ed.Pearson Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River. NJ.<br />

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