Just deserts for the mad


In this book I attempt to resolve some of the major practical and conceptual difficulties presented by the mentally disordered offender in the criminal justice and correctional systems. My arguments are based on a belief that both the community and the judiciary have developed a false or unrealistic expectation of the ability of the criminal justice system to effectively protect the community through its sentencing policies. So long as the limits of the criminal justice system as a means of protecting society fail to be recognised, unnecessarily harsh penalties will continue to be imposed without commensurate gains in the quality of life.

Throughout this book, therefore, I examine, in greater or lesser depth, the dividing line, between the bad and the mad, between treatment and punishment, between concepts of responsibility and non-responsibility, between non-culpability and culpability, between civil commitment and criminal punishment, and in general terms, between utilitarian and retributive constraints upon the quest for community protection. Particular consideration is given to the power of the courts to deal with mentally disordered offenders and to the adequacy (or inadequacy) of facilities or penal institutions assigned with the task of containing and/or treating them. An attempt is made to explain how the penalty commensurate with the gravity of the offence, can, or should be determined without seriously jeopardising either the attempt to meet the offender's mental health requirements or the legitimate demands of the community to see that justice is done. (Preface, edited)