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dealing with the criminally insane

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#1
The Wrath

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What do you think is the proper way to deal with people who are mentally ill to the point that they are a danger to society? Drudge currently has a headline about a woman who beheaded her infant because the devil told her to do it. There was another case in the past year in Canada where some guy on a Greyhound bus beheaded the guy sitting next to him. Those just aren't things that people do unless they're insane. This is a very divisive issue, where conservatives usually think we should treat them like any other criminal and liberals think they should be psychiatric treatment. I tend to lean more towards the liberal position, and here is why:

My first question is "what is the proper function of the criminal justice system?" I think the most important function of the justice system is to protect society, rather than the punish the guilty. Conservatives typically hold the position that the guilty should be inflicted with suffering, in the name of "justice," regardless of whether that suffering helps make society any safer. For normal criminals, the inflicting of suffering absolutely helps protect society, because it serves as a deterrent. But when you're dealing with people whose minds have lost touch with reality, I don't see any benefit.

So my personal opinion is that mentally ill people who commit heinous crimes should be put in the care of a psychiatric hospital. The obvious question now is "should they ever be let out?" For some of them, the answer is an obvious "no," because they will never be declared mentally competent to rejoin society. But what about people who, after years of intense psychiatric care, overcome their illnesses? Should they be let go? I'm gonna go ahead and say that, yes, they should. People who are mentally insane can't always tell right from wrong and, often, don't even understand what the results of their actions will be. So I don't think there is a justification for keeping them locked up for the sake of punishment or justice. The only consideration should be whether or not they are still a threat to others...and if a panel of professional psychiatrists says that they are no longer insane, I see no reason why they should not be allowed to rejoin society.

The families of the victims won't like it but, luckily, that isn't the concern of the justice system. And it's the reason that criminal cases are named "John Doe vs. the people of (insert jurisdiction here)" rather than "John Doe vs. the family of Jane Doe."
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly,
Out of the corner of my watering eye.
A dream unthreatened by the morning light,
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.
There's no sensation to compare with this,
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies,
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#2
Randroid

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I think the most important function of the justice system is to protect society, rather than the punish the guilty.

I have to disagree on that part. It is certainly a welcome side-effect, but we do not imprison criminals "for The Greater Good™ of society". We do this because they violated the rights of an individual. Even if deterrence were your primary motivation for supporting a criminal justice system, giving criminals a way to "get away" with some therapy by pleading insanity weakens the deterrence.
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#3
The Lonely Rationalist

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My first question is "what is the proper function of the criminal justice system?" I think the most important function of the justice system is to protect society, rather than the punish the guilty.


Isn't that a false dichotomy? When we lock someone up in prison, we are both punishing them and protecting society.

Conservatives typically hold the position that the guilty should be inflicted with suffering, in the name of "justice," regardless of whether that suffering helps make society any safer.


To be clear, are you saying that inflicting suffering one someone who deserves it isn't justice? If so, what do you think justice is?

For normal criminals, the inflicting of suffering absolutely helps protect society, because it serves as a deterrent.


Be careful. If we base the legal system around what is a deterrent and what isn't, we're in for a world of hurt. The left loves to say how prison isn't a deterrent against bad behavior (In an attempt to get more funding for social programs) and they constantly cite statistical examples in an attempt to prove this. If we go down that road we'd have to base sentences of criminals not on justice, but on the latest scientific study showing if something deters crime.

So my personal opinion is that mentally ill people who commit heinous crimes should be put in the care of a psychiatric hospital. The obvious question now is "should they ever be let out?" For some of them, the answer is an obvious "no," because they will never be declared mentally competent to rejoin society. But what about people who, after years of intense psychiatric care, overcome their illnesses? Should they be let go? I'm gonna go ahead and say that, yes, they should. People who are mentally insane can't always tell right from wrong and, often, don't even understand what the results of their actions will be. So I don't think there is a justification for keeping them locked up for the sake of punishment or justice. The only consideration should be whether or not they are still a threat to others...and if a panel of professional psychiatrists says that they are no longer insane, I see no reason why they should not be allowed to rejoin society.


I agree with you on this point. Not because I believe that the point of the judicial system is merely "The protection of society," but because I believe that the law should be based on intent. A psychopath who had no idea what he was doing shouldn't be sentenced to death or prison because his goal was not to hurt anyone. It's kind of like blaming a rock for falling on a person's head.

However, for a man to be declared mentally insane, he needs to be objectively examined by professional pyschologists before he gets off. This also applies to when he is released: The people judging his psychological well-being better make damn sure he won't kill again when he gets out.

#4
sanjavalen

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If a person's mental illness is brought to the attention of the court, the court can recognize that the right to life for an extremely mentally ill person is applied differently than a mentally healthy person (this is why even adult people with severe mental disorders, for example, typically cannot agree to contracts, have to have a guardian, etc.) So if beforehand it is brought to the attention of a court, they can take steps to ensure that the person does not harm others, up to and including imprisoning them (not with criminals, perhaps, but some minimum security deal where essentially the state is the "legal guardian" of a bunch of mentally ill people.)

After the fact - ie, suppose someone (for whatever reason) is mentally ill to the point where they commit a heinous crime, such as murder - the proper response is to imprison them for that particular crime. After they serve their sentence (if it isn't life in jail or the death sentence) they should be transferred imediately to a facility like I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Its a difficult question and I think the particulars would need to be worked out by legal thinkers in such a manner that mistakes are minimized, appeals are possible, and some objective standard of insane is used (as opposed to now, which I believe is nowhere near the case.) A system of appeals, the proper principles of how to treat human beings who still retain their right to life but do not have the mental faculties to exercise some of the derivative rights that most adults take for granted, etc. All of these require thought and careful planning on the part of legal professionals. But I think the above gives a rough outline of how it ought to be.

As far as "should the law take into account intent?" I think that is material for another topic and should not be gone over in detail in this one.

Edited by sanjavalen, 29 July 2009 - 05:55 AM.

"For so long as but a hundred of us remain alive, we will in no way yield ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honour that we fight, but for Freedom, which no good man lays down but with his life."

* From the Declaration of Arbroath, 1302.

#5
Jake_Ellison

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My first question is "what is the proper function of the criminal justice system?" I think the most important function of the justice system is to protect society, rather than the punish the guilty. Conservatives typically hold the position that the guilty should be inflicted with suffering, in the name of "justice," regardless of whether that suffering helps make society any safer.

The function of the justice system is to protect society by punishing the guilty, as deterrence. I believe most conservatives understand and agree with this far more than most liberals.

I think liberals hold that the function of government is to engineer and mold society, and what they consider its building blocks, people, into a functioning unit, for a greater purpose which has nothing to do with individual rights.

As for the mentally incapacitated criminals, they should be locked up separately from the rest of the criminals. If private charities wish to provide them with mental care, they should be allowed access to them.

#6
DavidOdden

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After the fact - ie, suppose someone (for whatever reason) is mentally ill to the point where they commit a heinous crime, such as murder - the proper response is to imprison them for that particular crime.

Our legal system punishes people for act only if they are aware that they are performing the act and if they freely choose to perform the act. (Therefore you would not be responsible for theft if a person smuggled someone else's goods into your suitcase, and you would not be responsible for theft if it was performed with a gun to your head). The legal system also holds that a man cannot properly be punished if he is incapable of distinguishing right and wrong acts. Which of these principles do you reject, and what exactly is, in your opinion, the proper relationship between morality and legal punishment. (Ordinarily, the law punishes the act of "choosing evil of a certain type", but that would presumably not be applicable for a person incapable of having a moral code or of making a choice).

Dave Odden


#7
sanjavalen

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David,

Specifically I reject non-punishment of deeds done on accident / without knowledge that they were evil beforehand, which the USA's justice system does not apply consistently.

Now, as outlined in the "Should justice be retributive or restorative?" thread, I also disagree highly with prison sentences not expressly connected to the damages done. Please refer to that thread and my link to "The Perfect Prison" article as background for my thoughts on the matter, as it is fairly important to distinguish that from the current *criminal* justice system (where sentences are often internally consistent, ie, murder gets more time than assault, but not necessarily connected to reality in any concrete way, I feel) and what I think would be an ideal justice system.

Anyway, just as, for example, if I were to accidentally destroy a window you owned (say, playing baseball, I hit a home run and your window is destroyed,) I would be responsible for the damage caused and (rightly) legally held responsible to replace it. In this situation no would could rightly say that I knew I was doing something wrong or evil or had any way of knowing that such a thing would happen beforehand (let us, for the sake of argument, agree to this instead of going round and round about particulars of baseball fields relatively close to house.) Similarly, regardless of whether or not the particular mentally ill person knew what he was doing was wrong or not, he is responsible for the damages so long as no force (gun to your head) or fraud (stolen merchandise in suitcase) is present. I suppose you could make a claim, as you might with a child, that whoever is guardian of the person might be held responsible for their acts, but that still leaves the problem of mentally ill who have not been identified and who do not have a guardian.

Edited by sanjavalen, 29 July 2009 - 07:17 AM.

"For so long as but a hundred of us remain alive, we will in no way yield ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honour that we fight, but for Freedom, which no good man lays down but with his life."

* From the Declaration of Arbroath, 1302.

#8
Jake_Ellison

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Ordinarily, the law punishes the act of "choosing evil of a certain type", but that would presumably not be applicable for a person incapable of having a moral code or of making a choice.

Justice is an integral part of a political system based on individual rights. If someone is not qualified to face justice, are they qualified to exercise any of their political rights (the right to liberty and property)?

Or is the government's function then to simply restrict such people's freedom, to isolate them from others, whenever a determination is made, by psychologists, that there's a potential for violent acts?

Specifically I reject non-punishment of deeds done on accident / without knowledge that they were evil beforehand, which the USA's justice system does not apply consistently.

Accidents aren't evil. But then again, an "accident" caused by a DUI is not an accident, it is a crime. However, a meteor strike no one saw coming is an accident. Do you want to punish the driver of a bus for driving his passangers where a meteor was about to strike, thus causing their deaths? The US justice system punishes the former, not the latter, is that what you consider inconsistent?

Anyway, just as, for example, if I were to accidentally destroy a window you owned (say, playing baseball, I hit a home run and your window is destroyed,) I would be responsible for the damage caused and (rightly) legally held responsible to replace it. In this situation no would could rightly say that I knew I was doing something wrong or evil or had any way of knowing that such a thing would happen beforehand (let us, for the sake of argument, agree to this instead of going round and round about particulars of baseball fields relatively close to house.)


I like the meteor example better, because in that one it is true that the driver couldn't have known what would happen, just as a crazy person doesn't know what he does.
A baseball player does know it, and the detail you discarded is precisely the reason why he is paying for the window.

#9
SapereAude

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Justice is an integral part of a political system based on individual rights. If someone is not qualified to face justice, are they qualified to exercise any of their political rights (the right to liberty and property)?


An excellent point and one far too often ignored.

The problem is that "mental illness" is still a fairly subjective notion.
One could say that anyone who commits an extreme act of criminal or sexual violence is "mentally ill".

Anyone who wants to have sex with a 3-year old is obviously deranged.
Are we ready to stop punishing these people, truly?

Let us also not ignore the recidivism rates of sex crimes (I am still going with the assumption that sexual predators are "sick"). While the reality of recidivism is far lower than sensationilists like to quote it is still statistically high at 39-52%. This is with treatment.

It also cannot be ignored that there is no "cure" for schizophrenia and no "cure" for mental disturbances that bring on psychotic breaks.

The problem with looking at treatment followed by release for these individuals is that the diagnosis occurs in a controlled environment where the individuals are monitored to ensure they are taking their meds. A person in a mental unit isn't subjected to the same stimuli that they will encounter upon release. Also, unless we burden "society" with monitoring them every day we cannot ensure they take any meds required to keep their brain chemistry in balance to keep them from becoming, once more, a danger.

It also cannot be ignored that while a mentally ill criminal may not have been able to choose between good/evil at the time of their psychotic break they often make choices that lead to the psychotic break..such as refusing to take or only haphazardly taking their meds, drinking or doing drugs on their meds, skipping appointments, etc.

So would this new system of dealing with mentally ill criminals take into account that while a crime wasn't commited wilfully that the criminal did while still reasonably functional make choices that lead to them being unable to choose?

Someone deranged on meth for example may not have been able to distinguish reality when they killed someone, but the choice to take meth was theirs.

Would then someone who has been diagnosed as mentally ill who knowingly stops taking their meds be defacto treated the same as the drug user?

The capture, cure, release idea seems dangerously altruistic.

Any reasonably effective means of accomplishing this would be very costly.. and on whom would the cost fall?
The very "society" victimized by the person's actions.

(edited for my excessive typos- gomen nasai)

Edited by QuoVadis, 29 July 2009 - 10:26 AM.

"You will be always victorious if you will never enter into any contest where the issue does not wholly depend upon yourself."

#10
The Lonely Rationalist

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Accidents aren't evil. But then again, an "accident" caused by a DUI is not an accident, it is a crime. However, a meteor strike no one saw coming is an accident. Do you want to punish the driver of a bus for driving his passangers where a meteor was about to strike, thus causing their deaths? The US justice system punishes the former, not the latter, is that what you consider inconsistent?


Out of curiosity, why is a DUI not an accident? Wasn't the driver unaware that he would hit another car?

I'm not being smarmy, I'd really like to know why.

#11
SapereAude

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Out of curiosity, why is a DUI not an accident? Wasn't the driver unaware that he would hit another car?

I'm not being smarmy, I'd really like to know why.


I think the view that could be taken of that is that while the driver couldn't know that he was going to hit another car the driver knew they were impairing themselves. A form of "reckless endangerment".

I'm not sure I entirely agree but I believe that is the basis of the current laws.
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#12
Alfa

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Anyway, just as, for example, if I were to accidentally destroy a window you owned (say, playing baseball, I hit a home run and your window is destroyed,) I would be responsible for the damage caused and (rightly) legally held responsible to replace it. In this situation no would could rightly say that I knew I was doing something wrong or evil or had any way of knowing that such a thing would happen beforehand (let us, for the sake of argument, agree to this instead of going round and round about particulars of baseball fields relatively close to house.) Similarly, regardless of whether or not the particular mentally ill person knew what he was doing was wrong or not, he is responsible for the damages so long as no force (gun to your head) or fraud (stolen merchandise in suitcase) is present. I suppose you could make a claim, as you might with a child, that whoever is guardian of the person might be held responsible for their acts, but that still leaves the problem of mentally ill who have not been identified and who do not have a guardian.

What if instead the ball hit an old lady in the head and she died? What would the proper consequences be?

#13
Jake_Ellison

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Out of curiosity, why is a DUI not an accident? Wasn't the driver unaware that he would hit another car?

I'm not being smarmy, I'd really like to know why.

The crime, in this case, is the DUI, even by itself. Though committing a crime isn't a necessary requirement to becoming an "accidental" murderer, when someone is doing that, it makes it all the more clear cut. Any "accidents" that happen as a result of that crime, are also part of the crime. The example everyone likes to use to illustrate the principle is the bank robbery during which a cop accidentally shoots a civilian. The robbers are the ones facing murder charges for it, because their crime caused the "accident".

I'm writing "accident", because the unintended, but foreseeable, consequences of an action are not accidents. They are the responsibility of the person performing the action, if it is demonstrated that he was aware of the possible consequences. Again, in the case of the drunk driver, he doesn't even have to be shown to have been aware of the consequences of driving drunk, it's enough that he was clearly aware of the laws - every driver is. But in other cases, like this next one, it matters what the possible/likely consequences of an action are, to the participants, when they decide to start performing the action.

What if instead the ball hit an old lady in the head and she died? What would the proper consequences be?

If old ladies like to walk around a park, and someone happens to start playing baseball there, then the proper consequence of that should be a murder charge for the person who killed the old lady.

If, on the other hand, the people were in the middle of a desert, playing baseball every day, no old ladies in sight, and after two years a senile old lady decides to wonder the desert right by the baseball match, then the death of the old lady can be chalked up as an accident: an unforeseeable consequence of the (perfectly responsible) actions the players took.

Edited by Jake_Ellison, 29 July 2009 - 01:27 PM.


#14
The Wrath

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Isn't that a false dichotomy? When we lock someone up in prison, we are both punishing them and protecting society.


It's not a dichotomy, because I realize they go hand in hand...most of the time. But, with the insane, you have to ask yourself which is more important, because they do not necessarily go hand in hand. Punishing a mentally-ill person does not protect society anymore than putting them in a psychiatric hospital and, hopefully, curing them of their illness. Punishing them will also not serve as a deterrent to other mentally-ill people...if it did, then they would not be mentally-ill.

With the mentally-ill, punishment and protecting society do not go hand in hand...and I think we have to decide which one is more important.

To be clear, are you saying that inflicting suffering one someone who deserves it isn't justice? If so, what do you think justice is?


It is not justice if it is done for its own sake. It's the reason we don't take rapists and put them in a cell where their cell mate is a rape machine. Maybe they deserve it, but it serves no purpose and I doubt anyone will argue that we should be doing such things.

Be careful. If we base the legal system around what is a deterrent and what isn't, we're in for a world of hurt. The left loves to say how prison isn't a deterrent against bad behavior (In an attempt to get more funding for social programs) and they constantly cite statistical examples in an attempt to prove this. If we go down that road we'd have to base sentences of criminals not on justice, but on the latest scientific study showing if something deters crime.


It's an absurd argument. Just look at the anarchy that happens after any natural disaster (like Katrina) and then let the liberals tell you that fear of legal consequences is not a deterrent against criminal behavior.

I agree with you on this point. Not because I believe that the point of the judicial system is merely "The protection of society," but because I believe that the law should be based on intent. A psychopath who had no idea what he was doing shouldn't be sentenced to death or prison because his goal was not to hurt anyone. It's kind of like blaming a rock for falling on a person's head.

However, for a man to be declared mentally insane, he needs to be objectively examined by professional pyschologists before he gets off. This also applies to when he is released: The people judging his psychological well-being better make damn sure he won't kill again when he gets out.


Agreed.
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly,
Out of the corner of my watering eye.
A dream unthreatened by the morning light,
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.
There's no sensation to compare with this,
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies,
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.

#15
The Wrath

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If old ladies like to walk around a park, and someone happens to start playing baseball there, then the proper consequence of that should be a murder charge for the person who killed the old lady.


This is a bit off-topic, but I just have to address this. Are you serious? Murder? Negligent homicide maybe, but MURDER? Man, I hope you never take your children to the park to play catch.
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly,
Out of the corner of my watering eye.
A dream unthreatened by the morning light,
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.
There's no sensation to compare with this,
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies,
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.

#16
Alfa

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If old ladies like to walk around a park, and someone happens to start playing baseball there, then the proper consequence of that should be a murder charge for the person who killed the old lady.

If, on the other hand, the people were in the middle of a desert, playing baseball every day, no old ladies in sight, and after two years a senile old lady decides to wonder the desert right by the baseball match, then the death of the old lady can be chalked up as an accident: an unforeseeable consequence of the (perfectly responsible) actions the players took.

Where do you draw the line between foreseeable and unforseeable consequences? It's certainly very unlikely that an old senile lady would be wandering in the middle of the dessert, but since that's a possibility shouldnt that be taken into consideration before deciding to play baseball there? What about a little less unlikely accident; say you are playing baseball in an open field, you know that old ladies are rarely seen there and as far as you can tell it's just you and your buddies there. Still, you get a really "lucky" shot, the ball flies far away outside the field into the bushes, where an old lady just so happens to be walking her dog.

Or, yet another scenario. You drive your car in an urban area where you know there can be children playing. Responsible as you are you drive carefully, aware of the risks, but still fail to react in time when a child runs out into the road - the consequences are tragic. Should you be convicted for murder?

Lastly; would this make you an immoral person?

Edited by Alfa, 29 July 2009 - 01:43 PM.


#17
Alfa

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This is a bit off-topic, but I just have to address this. Are you serious? Murder? Negligent homicide maybe, but MURDER? Man, I hope you never take your children to the park to play catch.

I'm sorry for bringing this off-topic. If you like, perhaps the moderators can split this into a separate thread?

However, in case it's not clear where i'm going with this; what i'm getting at here is that there's a differences between material and irrepairable damages. A broken window is easy enough to fix, and if you break one by accident you should replace it. A persons life is alot harder to fix. Other than the tragic consequences there's no difference between the guy breaking a window and the guy hitting the old lady in the head. Morally they can both be innocent.

A friend of mine working at an institution for the criminally insane told me about one patient who had killed(or tried to, I don't remember if he succeeded) his father. From his perspective the action was however quite rational. He was convinced he had an alligator in his living room. Of course a person like that should not be allowed out in society, but can you equate him with a murderer fully aware of his actions?

Edited by Alfa, 29 July 2009 - 02:00 PM.


#18
Jake_Ellison

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This is a bit off-topic, but I just have to address this. Are you serious? Murder? Negligent homicide maybe, but MURDER? Man, I hope you never take your children to the park to play catch.

Yes, yes, easy there. Negligent homicide it is.

Where do you draw the line between foreseeable and unforseeable consequences? It's certainly very unlikely that an old senile lady would be wandering in the middle of the dessert, but since that's a possibility shouldnt that be taken into consideration before deciding to play baseball there? What about a little less unlikely accident; say you are playing baseball in an open field, you know that old ladies are rarely seen there and as far as you can tell it's just you and your buddies there. Still, you get a really "lucky" shot, the ball flies far away outside the field into the bushes, where an old lady just so happens to be walking her dog.

Or, yet another scenario. You drive your car in an urban area where you know there can be children playing. Responsible as you are you drive carefully, aware of the risks, but still fail to react in time when a child runs out into the road - the consequences are tragic. Should you be convicted for murder?

Lastly; would this make you an immoral person?

I think humans are capable of making objective, rational decision. The line between foreseeable and unforseeable can be drawn just fine.
In both your new scenarios, for instance, the owner of the property can establish safety guidelines, and obeying them would be the deciding factor in the accident becoming a crime or not.

And yes, commiting any crime is immoral. Not sure what you mean by an "immoral person" though. I would think an immoral person would have to be completely evil and depraved. One crime does not make someone a completely immoral person.

Edited by Jake_Ellison, 29 July 2009 - 03:13 PM.


#19
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Sorry for the double post.

Edited by Jake_Ellison, 29 July 2009 - 03:13 PM.


#20
Trebor

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A friend of mine working at an institution for the criminally insane told me about one patient who had killed(or tried to, I don't remember if he succeeded) his father. From his perspective the action was however quite rational. He was convinced he had an alligator in his living room. Of course a person like that should not be allowed out in society, but can you equate him with a murderer fully aware of his actions?

Or perhaps he considered his father to be an "alligator," i.e., he was speaking metaphorically. And so, perhaps his father was an alligator, in his living room, and an actual threat?

Ever read Thurber's "The Unicorn in the Garden"? (It's a page long.)

#21
Trebor

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What do you think is the proper way to deal with people who are mentally ill to the point that they are a danger to society?

Perhaps you'll find this brief article (among others of his available on his site) worthy of consideration: "Does Insanity "Cause" Crime?"

#22
The Wrath

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That article seems rather...naive. There are many different kinds of insanity, and I wasn't saying that insanity "causes" crime, per se. But I don't see how someone can deny that there are people who are so out of touch with reality that they literally don't understand what they're doing. Take PTSD for example...there are many examples, particularly from Viet Nam, of veterans waking up and killing their entire families because they thought they were back in the jungle fighting the VC. Did the man want to kill his family? Of course not. Did his PTSD cause him to kill his family? No, but it created the situation where the man killing his family is more likely. He never would have done it, had his perception of reality been accurate.
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly,
Out of the corner of my watering eye.
A dream unthreatened by the morning light,
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.
There's no sensation to compare with this,
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies,
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.

#23
softwareNerd

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Perhaps you'll find this brief article (among others of his available on his site) worthy of consideration: "Does Insanity "Cause" Crime?"

That author (Thomas S. Szasz) has been mentioned in some earlier posts. From a brief scan of the articles linked (here and elsewhere) he seems to deny the existence of mental illness as such. He seems to go beyond arguing that most diagnoses of mental-illness are wrong, and seems to say that they are all wrong. If so, he's quite obviously mistaken. If not (i.e. if he agrees that mental illness is something real, in some cases) then the main question posed by this topic holds. In addition, one has the more complex question of what types of facts should be considered in judging a person to be legally insane and not in control of their actions.

Clearly, it is unjust to punish someone for things they had no control over. They may still be held liable (e.g. for recompense), but that does not arise from criminality. Mens rea (broadened to include negligence) is a vital part of criminality.

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#24
Trebor

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That article seems rather...naive. There are many different kinds of insanity, and I wasn't saying that insanity "causes" crime, per se. But I don't see how someone can deny that there are people who are so out of touch with reality that they literally don't understand what they're doing. Take PTSD for example...there are many examples, particularly from Viet Nam, of veterans waking up and killing their entire families because they thought they were back in the jungle fighting the VC. Did the man want to kill his family? Of course not. Did his PTSD cause him to kill his family? No, but it created the situation where the man killing his family is more likely. He never would have done it, had his perception of reality been accurate.

I'm curious as to what are some of the many kinds of insanity?

As to the Viet Nam veteran who you say has PTSD and wakes up and kills their entire family because he thought that he was back in the jungle fighting the VC, you say, "Of course not" with such confidence that I'm curious as to how it is that you know that he did not want to kill his entire family?

What makes you, or anyone, think that the veteran was so out of touch with reality that they thought that they were back in the jungle fighting the VC?

Because that is what they report?

If so, why is what they report considered to be credible?

#25
The Wrath

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I'm curious as to what are some of the many kinds of insanity?


http://en.wikipedia....isorders#DSM-IV

As to the Viet Nam veteran who you say has PTSD and wakes up and kills their entire family because he thought that he was back in the jungle fighting the VC, you say, "Of course not" with such confidence that I'm curious as to how it is that you know that he did not want to kill his entire family?

What makes you, or anyone, think that the veteran was so out of touch with reality that they thought that they were back in the jungle fighting the VC?

Because that is what they report?

If so, why is what they report considered to be credible?


The cases are pretty well-documented. I don't care to look them up, because you'll just turn around and say "he could have been faking mental illness." Well, yeah, and God could have created the universe 6,000 years ago, but made it look billions of years old. Even so, the PTSD thing was just an example. I could come up with a thousand others, and you would probably just deny their validity as well. I trust the psychiatrists who study these things, for the same reason I trust my doctor to identify the warning signs of skin cancer.

You seem to be accepting the notion of the author of the article you just posted that the very concept of mental illness is erroneous. If you've already made up your mind that all claims of insanity are bullshit, then there's no evidence I can give you that you'll accept, because you can always just claim the person is faking it.

There's a church for people who deny the validity of psychiatry. It's called Scientology. I hear Tom Cruise and John Travolta are involved so, if you do in fact doubt the existence of mental illness, at least you're in good company.
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air.
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly,
Out of the corner of my watering eye.
A dream unthreatened by the morning light,
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night.
There's no sensation to compare with this,
Suspended animation, a state of bliss.
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies,
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.


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