Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stopping Psychopaths & Others With Severe Mental Disorders From Hurting Others

What do you do about a guy like Cho (background here and here)? Everyone knew he was nuts. He scared people. And yet, no laws, no standards existed to do the sensible thing: lock the guy up until he recovered enough mental function so as not harm the public. Eugene Methvin recommends following the example of Maryland before hippies intervened and essentially neutered the law, which was eventually discarded:

A young lawyer named Jerome Robinson was in the courtroom the day Duker was sentenced. A few years later Robinson was in the Maryland legislature. He headed a "blue ribbon" study commission embracing the best legal and psychiatric minds of the time. They produced the 1951 "defective delinquent" law creating a hybrid prison and mental hospital, the Patuxent Institution, which opened its doors in 1955. It was a sound solution to the terrible problem posed by explosive criminals like Duker and James. The nation's best psychiatric authorities agreed such psychopaths comprise an unusual category of compulsive criminals who, while knowing the difference between right and wrong and hence legally "sane," nevertheless lack the normal moral restraints on rage impulses.

The law's authors made their priorities clear: 1. Protect the public. 2. Provide treatment within the limits of current psychiatric knowledge. 3. Research to advance the science. They wanted it made difficult to get into Patuxent, and then difficult to get out. Fourteen elaborate safeguards surrounded a convicted criminal before he could be committed to Patuxent -- many more than in other state civil proceedings permitting potentially lifetime civil commitment for insanity that federal courts had frequently upheld against constitutional attacks. Only convicted criminals were candidates for admission. A candidate was entitled to have psychiatrists of his own choice examine him and testify in his behalf, at state expense. And the ultimate question was left not to psychiatrists but to a citizen-jury: did this convicted criminal, "by the demonstration of persistent, aggravated antisocial or criminal behavior... evidence a propensity toward criminal activity... so as to clearly demonstrate an actual danger to society?"
The system ended up having superlative results both for the criminal and for society.

Currently, criminals in the making must do one huge dastardly deed, but then it's too late. Society could be save mayhem and murder if the criminal was housed before he hurt. You're worried about slippery slopes. I am, too. While having dinner with a psychiatrist friend, though, I asked him whether the psychopaths, schizophrenics or manic-depressives he treats ever recover. He said that in all his 25 years of practicing (always in mental hospitals with the most dangerous people) and being Chief Physician in a psych hospital, he could count on one hand the number of people who recovered, and he wondered if they were diagnosed correctly in the first place. The others got worse with time. He explained that the law doesn't allow for dealing long-term with people so the institutions become a revolving door. He felt that it was a bad thing when the mentally ill got expelled from the hospitals.

Many of those released are street people. They may not harm others, but they're easy prey themselves. And then there are many criminals free to do their evil bidding because there's no place for them until they blow.

Perhaps it's time to re-examine the notion of a long-term psychiatric solution. There might not be a lot of psychological healing going on, but there'd be less societal problems.

H/T Instapundit


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post. Dr. Scott Peck once wrote that in all his years of Psychiatry, he has experienced and seen that the most profound change in a human being is his/her commitment to God.

Carl Jung once told a hopeless patient by the name of Roland, "Alas,neither I nor my art can help you, and your only hope is to throw yourself wholeheartedly into a spiritual program, for it is recorded in history, although rare, recoveries have occurred under those circumstances."

Rolands remarkable recovery set the stage for the now, worldwide Twelve -Step movement. Studies show that it has even been effective in 35% of cases of extremely hardened chronic criminals.

Anonymous said...

Myu sentiments exactly, anon. Has there been any longitudinal research into it though? Locally there is a huge push on to fund a crisis center, more shrinks etc but the case studies being put forward seem more like garden-variety neurotics who would benefit from revelation more than more talking about their problems.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:33, I don't know. It seems to me that there has been plenty of studies and research done, and the 12 Step-Programs are certainly a testament to that.

I agree with you, it is all fine and good setting up a crisis center if the programs they implement work and are spiritual based in its nature. Otherwise, you simply have more talk but not really any lasting solutions. Something is wrong when it is said that no real results are evident after being in this field for that many years as this post here indicates. That is very troubling to me.

I am reading a fascinating study right now by David R.Hawkins,M.D.,Ph.D - "Transcending The Levels of Consciousness" where Dr. Hawkins, in very "practical" terms gives solutions to working through every day issues that folks are dealing with. This particular work is very personal and gets down to where we live. It is excellent!

Anon. if you've never read anything by this man, don't let words such as "consciousness", "transcendence," etc...scare you off. He is most definitely worth reading as he is very intelligent and very insightful. I wish more in the mental health field could or would understand these principles.

sandy said...

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