Mental illness and criminality

A couple of items in the news recently highlighting the plight of mentally ill offenders.

The Washington Post (May 29) highlights recent crimes committed by individuals with mental illness and reports:

The pace of violence hardly surprises those who deal with the mentally ill every day: social workers, police, parents, lawyers. They know how hard it is to get a sick person treatment, how few resources are available, how the money for help has declined.

[…] “There’ve been increasing pressures to reduce beds everywhere,” said Robert W. Keisling, former head of emergency psychiatric services in the District. “And there’s been a dumbing down of the hospital system. Some of the folks doing assessments are not psychologists or psychiatrists, and there are a lot of stupid assessments being made.”

When is a killer sane enough to die? asks the New York Times (2 June):

Scott Panetti, a death row inmate in Texas, understands that the state says it intends to execute him for the murder of his wife’s parents. But Mr. Panetti, 48, who represented himself in court despite a long and colorful history of mental illness, says he believes that the state’s real reason is a different one. He says the state, in league with Satan, wants to kill him to keep him from preaching the Gospel.

That delusion has been documented by doctors and acknowledged by judges and prosecutors. It poses what experts call the next big question in death penalty law now that the Supreme Court has barred the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded: what makes someone too mentally ill to be executed?

See also:

One thought on “Mental illness and criminality”

  1. Readers might be interested in a new book of mine, Creativity, Mental Illness and Crime, just published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. (Dubuque, Iowa).


    Russell Eisenman, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Psychology
    University of Texas-Pan American
    Edinburg, TX 78539

Comments are closed.