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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 99764 Find in a Library
Title: Reign of Error - Psychiatry, Authority, and Law
Author(s): L Coleman
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 312
Sponsoring Agency: Beacon Press
Boston, MA 02108-2892
Sale Source: Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108-2892
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Using case studies from across the United States, including that of John Hinckley, this book argues there is no reliable empirical basis for psychiatry's involvement in legal decisionmaking.
Abstract: After developing the argument that psychiatrists have no valid scientific tools or expertise to justify the legal power the state has entrusted to them, chapters challenge psychiatry's involvement in legal decisionmaking pertaining to the insanity defense, diminished capacity, and competency to stand trial. Psychiatry's expertise is also questioned in decisionmaking bearing upon the prediction of dangerousness or criminality; mandatory treatment, particularly for juveniles; and indeterminate sentencing. Overall, the book challenges the view that social and behavioral problems can be resolved by yoking the criminal justice power of the state with the tools and knowledge of psychiatry. The three-pronged alternative approach recommended is (1) social reforms aimed at establishing socioeconomic and political justice; (2) a criminal justice system limited to apprehending, convicting, and punishing criminals; and (3) a voluntary mental health system divorced from state power and the criminal justice system. Chapter notes and a bibliography of approximately 200 listings are provided.
Index Term(s): Competency to stand trial; Criminality prediction; Dangerousness; Diminished capacity defense; Forensic psychiatry; Indeterminate sentences; Insanity defense; Involuntary treatment; Psychiatric testimony
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