skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 70205 Find in a Library
Title: Culpability, Responsibility and Socio-Psychiatric Control of Diagnostic Psychopathic Subjects - Current Trends in Criminal Policy
Author(s): G C Nivoli; D Szabo
Corporate Author: Universite de Montreal, Centre International de Criminologie Comparee
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 63
Sponsoring Agency: Universite de Montreal, Centre International de Criminologie Comparee
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3c 3j7
Format: Document
Language: French
Country: Canada
Annotation: Current attitudes of criminologists, especially in North America, toward the concepts of psychopath, criminal responsibility, and psychiatric control are examined.
Abstract: Despite attacks of antipsychiatric groups, the authors argue that recent clinical findings support continued application of the term psychopath. Two types of psychopaths are defined: the simple epicurean psychopath unable to control his appetites and frequently found in prison, and the complex psychopath who, being intelligent and sophisticated, is able to exploit the vulnerability of others and seldom ends up confined. While simple psychopaths may be unaware of the criminal nature of their acts and are therefore without any sense of guilt, complex psychopaths tend to disguise their offenses in socially acceptable behavior and to maintain a highly respectable facade. Complex psychopaths must be identified outside prison and their criminal behavior exposed. Individuals of this type are often glorified as heroes pursuing their own desires at all costs against hostile social structures. In reality, complex psychopaths are egocentric, without concern for society's problems and incapable of loyalty to any group. As psychiatry and law function on different levels, they are at odds about how to ascertain responsibility of individuals subject to uncontrollable urges but capable of understanding. Problems of behavioral etiology and therapy are equally difficult to resolve. Criminologists advocate a variety of approaches to social control of psychopaths: i.e., the traditionalist, the classic, the positivist, and the social defense approaches. The application on indeterminate sentences for social control has fallen into disfavor in California because it became more a means of controlling prisoners than of penalizing convicted offenders; the system has been reformed to consider individual rights and punishment in keeping with the offense. Although accurate prediction of psychopaths' dangerousness is hindered by a number of factors, the concepts of dangerousness, recidivism, mental deficiency, sexual crimes, and psychopathy are frequently, if unjustly, assumed to be linked. Removal of matters involving mentally ill persons from the courts; elimination of indeterminate detention and development of alternatives such as immediate release, ambulatory treatment or hospitalization; special psychological training for police officers; emphasis on the sentence first and treatment second; and employment of psychiatric experts only as court advisors, not as decisionmakers are recommended. A bibliography is supplied. --in French.
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Determinate Sentencing; Forensic psychiatry; Indeterminate sentences; North America; Psychopaths; Treatment
Note: Appeared previously in Confrontation Psychiatriques, 1979, Coen, France.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.