The insanity defence

The so-called “insanity defence” in English law was framed a long time ago. Our understanding of “insanity” (a word that is no longer used in modern psychiatry) needs to be updated in view of current understanding of mental health. Recent scientific evidence about the brains of various people, such as psychopaths and convicted murderers, raises concerns about who can be held responsible for criminal and anti-social behaviour.

Useful References

Wikipedia- Anti-psychiatry

While the insanity defense is the subject of controversy as a viable excuse for wrong-doing, Szasz and other critics contend that being committed in a psychiatric hospital can be worse than criminal imprisonment, since it involves the risk of compulsory medication with neuroleptics or the use of electroshock treatment.[97][98] Moreover, while a criminal imprisonment has a predetermined time of end that could be anticipated, patients are typically committed to psychiatric hospitals for indefinite durations.

Not guilty by reason of insanity

1  : a plea by a criminal defendant who intends to raise an insanity defense ­used in jurisdictions that require such a plea in order for an insanity defense to be presented
2  : a verdict rendered by a jury in a criminal case that finds that the defendant was insane at the time of committing the crime as determined by application of the test for insanity used in the jurisdiction
compare guilty but mentally ill
A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity usu. results in the commitment of the defendant to a mental institution. Such a verdict, however, may allow the defendant to be released, sometimes into the custody or care of another (as a family member).

Aboriginal people in custody are in urgent need of improved mental health services, according to the authors of a study that found many Indigenous adults in Queensland jails have at least one mental disorder.

The director of Queensland Forensic Mental Health Services, Dr Edward Heffernan, and coauthors based their findings on interviews with 347 Indigenous men and 72 Indigenous women who were incarcerated in Queensland in 2008.

The findings are published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 14 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous Australians andmake up 26% of people in custody, despite being less than 3% of the Australian population.

The researchers, who included a member of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, found that 73% of Indigenous men and 86% of Indigenous women who gave interviews had a mental disorder. By comparison, 20% of Australians have a mental illness.

Specifically, 20% of the men and 51% of the women who took part had anxiety disorders, 11% of men and 29% of women had depressive disorders, 8% of men and 23% of women had psychotic disorders, and 66% of men and 69% of women had a substance use disorder.

Of particular concern was the prevalence of diagnosed psychotic disorder, particularly among women, the researchers found.

“Psychotic disorder is associated with significant morbidity and increased risk of reincarceration,” they wrote.

According to their report, the findings highlight an urgent need to develop and resource culturally capable mental health services for Indigenous Australians in custody: “Access to appropriate treatment may help prevent the ‘revolving door’ of incarceration.”

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