Punishment or treatment? - Comparing the lengths of confinement of successful and unsuccessful insanity defendants

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Abstract

Although there is strong support among the general public for providing insanity acquittees with mental health treatment, it is also believed that insanity acquittees should be punished when they break the law. Prior studies of the lengths of confinement of insanity acquittees have yielded inconsistent results. This article draws upon a large-scale, multistate study of insanity pleas to explore the question: Is society able to withhold punishment against persons acquitted of criminal charges due to insanity? Results indicate that offense seriousness is a more important factor than mental disorder in determining the lengths of confinement of persons found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity and that persons found guilty are more likely to be released without ever having been confined than persons acquited by reason of insanity. Implications for invoking offense seriousness as a primary criterion in assessments of dangerousness are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-388
Number of pages14
JournalLaw and human behavior
Volume19
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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