Public Policy: Mental Disorders and Crime

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The policy on mental health disorders and crime has received several criticisms both nationally and internationally. The questions frequently asked are whether mental disorders cause crime or crimes cause mental disorders. Mentally disturbed individuals are often given fair treatment in cases of crime (Peay, 2012). This is because there is an assumption that they were not aware of their criminal actions because of their condition. This policy has, however, not been respected by most people, and there have been incidences of serious punishment of mentally sick people. Those offenders, who act in the context of mental disorder, often experience the numerous aspects of criminal justice process. They face the various disposals that follow criminal trials, as they are adapted to account for relationship between crime and mental disorders. The method of dealing with mentally disturbed offenders is, in some circumstances, considered discriminatory or unfair. Several concerns regarding legal issues and human rights have been discussed in relation to mental disorders and crime. Should offenders with mental disorders be set free or should they face criminal punishment like others? This is the frequently asked question, with some people believing that mental illness should not be an excuse to commit a crime (Peay, 2012). Others believe in the mental disorders and crime policy and consider mentally retarded offenders unaware of their actions, hence such criminals should not face criminal charges.

This policy affects quite a big number of people, among them the victims of the crime in question, the family of the victims and the family of the mentally sick offender (Hodgins, 1992). A mentally sick offender is seen as unaware of his or her actions, and the crime committed may not affect this individual much and compared to his or her family. The offender’s family often feels the bitter portion of the situation. The family faces the humiliation and bitter accusations made by the public, who can never stay silent during a criminal act. The family members may at times experience discrimination from people, since they are associated with a criminal. In case the policy favors the offender, which his or her family will pray for, stigmatization and discrimination will live with them for a long time. Such a mentally ill offender will need to be put under medical care in a psychiatric center, which requires money. The victim, on the other hand, is seriously affected, and in such cases several outcomes can be experienced. A victim may be injured, hence requiring serious medical attention, or some cases may result in death. The victim’s family always faces the trying portion of the situation, where the members lose their loved one or see him or her in pain. In case the victim dies, the offender’s family experience tremendous guilt.

The policy has been effective in most cases involving minor crimes, for instance, those having no injured or dead victims. In such cases, arguing is easy, since the mental disorder is often the cause of the crime, making the offender innocent (Appelbaum, 2006). However, when victims are involved in a criminal incident, arguing the case becomes rather difficult. There is the human rights concern which makes both sides of the case innocent. On one side, the victim and family needs fair treatment of their human rights. In case of death or tempted murder, the law should follow its course in favor of the victim. On the other side, the offender is mentally ill, and his or her actions are a result of  the offender’s condition. The policy protects offenders with mental disorders, an action that may seem unfair to the victims. Therefore, this policy has both positive and negative effects in various sectors, and a serious research needs to be done. 

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