PSYCHOLOGY AND CRIMINALITY

The association between a psychiatric illness and criminality has been up for debate in recent past in the light of multiple mass shootings in the US. Although extended focus and media attention has been profoundly given to the importance of mental health which has had a positive impact, however, the relation between criminality and mental illness has been coalesced.

“The popular belief is that people with mental illness are more prone to commit acts of violence and aggression. The public perception of psychiatric patients as dangerous individuals is often rooted in the portrayal of criminals in the media as “crazy” individuals.  A large body of data suggests otherwise. People with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.” This prejudice extends all the way to the criminal justice system, where people with mental illness get treated as criminals, arrested, charged, and jailed for a longer time in jail compared to the general populace.

An essential element that plays into the false equivocation of psychiatric illness and criminality is the incorrect labelling of all criminals as persons with mental illness. The society at large views behaviour and conduct problems as a symptom of a psychological disorder, which has led to the false public perception that equates criminality with psychiatric illness. The high levels of reported mental illness in jail and prison populations is primarily due to false labelling of criminals as having a psychiatric illness. These figures are not always based on thorough medical and psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis, but rather as a result of social factors.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) is one such diagnosis that is widely and arbitrarily applied to many in the prison populations. As a result, there is a debate as to whether ASPD is even a psychiatric illness or just a societal moral judgment. The label is increasingly used to paint criminals as victims of psychiatric illness.

Hence, it is imperative for psychiatrists to diagnose a psychiatric illness such as ASPD when its characteristic traits appear in childhood or adolescence, and not let criminals use the cover of psychiatric diagnoses to evade criminal punishment.

In public perception, violence and mental illness are inextricably entwined, the stigma of which might be associated with mental illness, due to the tendency to combine it with the concept of dangerousness. This perception is further augmented by the media which sensationalises violent crimes committed by persons with mental illness, particularly mass shootings, and focuses on mental illness in such reports, ignoring the fact that most of the violence in society is caused by people without mental illness. This societal bias contributes to the stigma faced by those with a psychiatric diagnosis, which in turn contributes to non-disclosure of the mental illness and decreased treatment seeking.

In 1981 a criminal named Darrell Howell was twice determined to be mentally ill by two separate doctors, but at his trial a Dr. Fairbanks said in his testimony that he was seventy-five to eighty percent sure of Howell’s sanity. As a result, Howell was judged competent and convicted. Howell’s attorney, Dennis Hartley, then stated, “One of the things we are citing is the failure of the judge to rule insanity.” Howell’s lawyers were skeptical of the judge and jury’s ability to properly assess the situation when it comes to mental illness. How is it possible for anyone except the perpetrator to truly know what was going through his head at the time of the crime?

Since diagnosing APSD is a tough ask as it includes vague symptoms and can easily be mistaken as some other illness, criminals use this to their advantage for lesser punishment or no punishment at all, which also causes ignorance of the criminals who actually suffer from a mental illness. Moreover, due to inclusion of media, violence is correlated with psychiatric illness which might not be the case. Criminals while committing a crime might be sane at the time of commission, but only the criminal knows it. In the recent years, mental illness has been so hyped up that every irrational action of a person is concluded as a result of an unstable mind by the society. The same goes for a criminal as well. Moreover, it is highly likely that a criminal’s behaviour is misjudged to be under the influence of a mental illness as seen in so many cases because there is a very narrow line between a criminal’s intent and the intent pointing out to be of an unstable mind.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

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