Against The Insanity Defense. Essay

1238 words - 5 pages

The insanity defense has been used for decades to justify the crimes of those individuals found to be not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). The use of the insanity defense is one that is surrounded in controversy and continues to be a problem for medical and law professionals across the nation. One major problem with the insanity defense is that insanity is a legal, not a medical definition. So how can one apply medical theory to a legal matter? Other problems associated with the insanity defense include how to actually determine mental illness, justifiable placement of those judged mentally ill, and its overall usefulness (Chiacchia 2001).The general public also has issues with the use of the insanity defense. They feel that NGRIs result in a shorter or non-existent prison/institutionalization, that the mentally ill should not be treated like normal citizens once released, and that the insanity defense is used to escape justice (Brownfeld 1994:10). Also at issue is the belief that the state of psychological knowledge encourages expensive "dueling experts" contests that are difficult for juries to understand (Chiacchia 2001). The insanity defense may also unfairly exclude some defendants who may legitimately qualify as being mentally ill due to the variety of definitions inexistence involving insanity and mental illness (Paquette 2002:77).All of these reasons suggest that the best alternative, when it comes to the insanity defense, is abolishment. This doesn't mean that it should be eliminated altogether, but that improvements need to be made, or a new type of insanity defense needs to be created to eliminate the deficits of the current insanity defense (Linhorst & Dirks-Linhorst 1999:71). Without some sort of change the insanity defense will not be supported as a legitimate option for those deemed not guilty by reason of insanity.The insanity defense allows a mentally ill defendant to avoid being imprisoned for a crime on the assumption that he or she was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong (Pelayo 1999:729). This suggests that a mentally ill defendant cannot be deterred by the threat of punishment and that treatment for the defendant is more likely to protect society then a jail term with out treatment (Chiacchia 2001). If this were the case then there would be an absence of mentally ill in today's prison system. Clearly this definition is flawed because some of these individuals are not receiving the treatment that they need in order to return to normal society. This may be due to the problem of determining mental illness in the first place (Paquette 2002:77). The insanity defense does not keep the guilty mentally ill locked away and the insanity acquitted are usually afforded the same constitutional rights and equal protection rights of civilly committed individuals. This makes it difficult to retain mentally defendants if they are deemed recovered. The advances that have been made in psychiatric treatments also make it...

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