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NCJ Number: 76701 Find in a Library
Title: Myths, Mistreatment, and Pitfalls - Mental Retardation and Criminal Justice
Journal: Mental Retardation  Volume:15  Issue:4  Dated:(August 1977)  Pages:51-57
Author(s): D Biklen
Date Published: 1977
Page Count: 7
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper examines three problems facing the mentally retarded offender: societal myths, mistreatment within the criminal justice system, and difficulties associated with special treatment.
Abstract: Despite evidence suggesting no link between physiological or psychological characteristics and criminality, personal traits are still a popular explanation for crime. For example, it has been suggested (e.g., a 1976 study) that men born with the XXY chromosome makeup, and who also have lower than average intelligence, are more prone to aggressive and criminal behavior. However, other hypotheses may explain slightly higher representation of retarded persons in prison populations. Retarded persons may be at risk of being easily influenced by delinquent peers. They may also experience greater frustration in a highly competitive society and choose delinquency as an act of rebellion. Mentally retarded persons are also mistreated by the criminal justice system. For example, an adequate defense may never be formulated if the attorney relies solely on the argument that the person is incompetent to stand trial. Retardation, even when it is severe, unlike insanity, is not considered cause for a not guilty plea. The fact that mentally retarded people may more readily confess to the crime, whether or not they committed it, is not considered in court. While in prison, mentally retarded offenders are more susceptible to the horrors of institutional life such as rape, or extortion, and they tend to be placed in the 'lowest level' menial maintenance jobs. The paradigm for dealing with mentally retarded offenders is the special treatment program. This however, also poses problems. For example, elements from the juvenile justice area, such as incompetence to stand trial, which reduce the freedoms of those accused or convicted, are part of special treatment. Community education campaigns are needed to erase myths about criminality and intelligence. In addition, legal reform is needed to expunge the practice of incarcerating (by civil commitment) the retarded on the basis of predicted dangerousness. Furthermore, studies should be conducted in such areas as trial proceedings and pretrial examinations. Court cases involving the retarded offender and about 50 references are included.
Index Term(s): Competency to stand trial; Genetic influences on behavior; Law reform; Nonbehavioral correlates of crime; Offenders with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Rights of the accused
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