Are all delinquents created equal? Indeed there are myriad levels of criminal activity that land offenders in jail, with a percentage of those criminlas committing their crimes under the duress of mental illness These prisoners, while deserving of severe punishment, often do not have full control of their faculties. These orphans of society are often compelled by an emotional or mental imbalance that provokes them to act savagely toward their fellow human beings.
Many prisoners that are in jail have been convicted of crimes far beyond their control. Although some blame must be taken, many suffer from acute mental disorders1 It is estimated that over 38% of inmates who are now incarcerated suffer from some type of mental illness, with schizophrenia leading the list2. Schizophrenia is often misdiagnosed by those who are running evaluations on the prisoners at the time of punishment. It is often seen as “temporary insanity” by many psychologists.
One might assert the fact that all these people need is treatment, not prison3. Psychiatric help is in order for these repeat assault offenders, not a lifetime behind bars where the taxpayers’ money is not put to good use. By placing the criminals into long-term therapy, there is at least a small chance of rehabilitation that would not be present in a full security prison. Finding ways by which inmates can be treated is the first step in winning this battle.
IQ tests are ways in which criminal behavior is now being studied4. By examining these tests and determining the scores of these tests, psychologists are better able to determine whether or not a criminal was mentally handicapped at the time of the incident. By going to these extremes many can now see the second guessing many government officials are doing in regards to capital punishment of the mentally challenged.
Mnay have propositioned that the punishment should fit the mental capacity of the offender5 . Oftentimes,mnay criminals are given sentences that far surpass the crime that they have committed. By analyzing the crime and deciding on a proper course of action, most criminals could receive lighter sentences and more psychological help. Thus benefiting those who are mentally challenged.
Lacking access to psychological help in most prisons, many prisoners are forced to suffer with their unrecognized condition6. Most psychologists are either too busy or are too lazy to be bothered with helping inmates improve their condition. As a result, many conditions often worsen in prison and are left unresolved permanently.
Most often trials consist of criminals being unfairly sentenced due to conditions beyond their control7. Prosecutors do not take into account the mental conditions that many of these criminals face on a day to day basis. As a result, mental illness and conditions are never used in a court of law.
There have been many cases of criminals tried unfairly due to mental disorders. One such case was involving Diego Martinez 8 Mr. Martinez had been convicted of armed robbery and was put on death row in 1985. Although he is currently awaiting a retrial, Diego suffered from what many psychiatrists refer to as schizophrenia. At the time of his conviction, he was misdiagnosed9. This led to an unlawful conviction that is still trying to be overturned today.
Another example of the misdiagnosis of prisoners came with the conviction of Logan Sleeth10 Sleeth was convicted and placed on death row in 1992 for the murder of an elderly woman in Des Moines, Iowa. Although he had been “thoroughly tested” by psychologists at the time, many failed to recognize the mental illnesses from which he suffered. At his trial evidence was given against him and the psychological reports never stated any deviation from the norm11. Furthermore, the reports also stated that he, in fact, had never had any history of mental illness in his childhood. One could guess that his father’s suicide would never have played a part in his murder of someone else.
Criminals who are mentally disable are not able to think clearly and function as a whole. They are often mislead in to believing that they are “complete” by the many doctors reports they read and by the test results they receive. This can lead many into believing that hese criminals are in fact sane when in fact they are suffering from serious mental conditions. Sometimes prosecutors knowingly try to convict criminals of crimes that they know are due to mental illnesses.
- Franco Stanley. Alternative Methods. ( Chicago Press, United Press Books, 1997) 132-137.
- Miller, Mike Beliefs and Disbeliefs. (New York: Times Books, 1999) 225-235.
- Miller, Wayne Capital Punishment At Its Best. ( New York, Times Books, 1995) 255-256.