Mental Illness and Criminal Behavior

1486 Words Apr 17th, 2011 6 Pages
Mental illness and Criminal Behavior Mental illness and insanity defenses have remained highly controversial topics throughout history. You may have heard of John Hinckley, the man who shot and killed President Reagan, and was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was instead sent to a psychiatric institute. Some would argue that mental illness is a disease that should be treated as such and that it inhibits an individual from distinguishing right from wrong, while others would argue that “the issue of right and wrong should not be the guiding principle to determine sanity” (Paqeutte). Many medical professionals study these types of diseases to determine whether or not this makes criminal behavior more likely in a mentally ill …show more content…
Shouldn’t a mentally ill individual who commits a crime get the same treatment that a “healthy” individual gets? That would seem “only fair”. When an individual pleads “not guilty by reason of insanity” he or she is acquitted and institutionalized with the chance of release if he or she is declared “no longer mentally ill.” One article very strongly against the idea of the insanity plea states that “psychiatry has undermined justice in the United States by justifying criminality” (Valentine). The same article states that this has “justified crime.” An interesting argument to be made, one could potentially get an easier sentence, not in prison but in a special hospital and have the potential to be released when deemed “not mentally ill.” In the 1700’s courts would use the “wild beast” test to determine whether or not an individual was sane or insane. If proven insane the individual would be looked at as “no more than an infant” (Hucker). Today, we test for insanity using the American Law Institutes’ test which was adopted by the Supreme Court of California in 1978 which states “A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality [wrongfulness] of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.” In conclusion each side of this spectrum holds merit and each has many arguments