October 17, 2007

Hot off the press: Mental health and criminal justice

The new issue of Criminal Justice, the American Bar Association magazine (Vol. 22 No. 3), features a roundup of cutting-edge topics at the intersection of psychology-law. The articles are written by notables in their fields and, best of all, they are available online and for free:

Mental Health and Criminal Justice: An Overview

By Andrew E. Taslitz

The Supreme Court's Recent Criminal Mental Health Cases Rulings of Questionable Competence

By Christopher Slobogin

For decades the subject of mental illness and criminal law languished in the legal "backwaters" at the U.S. Supreme Court. That changed in 2003 when the Court accepted the case of Sell v. United States (a defendant's right to refuse medication), followed quickly by two more seminal decisions in Clark v. Arizona (2006) (the scope of psychiatric defenses) and Panetti v. Quarterman (2007) (the definition of competency to be executed). But has this sudden interest in mental illness issues resulted in good law? The author argues to the contrary and details where and how the Court has erred.

Prosecutor as "Nurse Ratched"?: Misusing Criminal Justice as Alternative Medicine

By Gerald E. Nora

Traditionally, prosecutors approach claims of mental impairment by criminal defendants with skepticism, contesting competency defenses and sentencing mitigation. More recently, though, they find themselves as "diversionary gatekeepers" - seeking alternatives to trials and prison for those who more aptly belong in the medical arena. The author, a Cook County ( Illinois) state's attorney, finds neither role satisfactory and argues for reforms that will limit a prosecutor's responsibility for addressing a defendant's mental health needs through the justice system.

The Promise of Mental Health Courts: Brooklyn Criminal Justice System Experiments with Treatment as an Alternative to Prison

By Matthew J. D'Emic

Judge D'Emic tracks the establishment of one of the country's first courts to use diversionary treatment in dealing with mentally ill criminal defendants. He maps the defendant's journey from intake through assessment and treatment to "graduation" from the program.

Executing the Mentally Ill: When Is Someone Sane Enough to Die?

By Michael Mello

An opponent of the death penalty, Prof. Mello presents this personal account of advocating for mentally ill death row inmates. While detailing his clients' descent into madness and the tortured disconnect between the fantasy world of the insane and a justice system bent on accountability, the author looks at the impact of three high-profile cases.

Mental Health Status and Vulnerability to Police Interrogation Tactics

By William C. Follette, Deborah Davis, and Richard A. Leo

The authors offers a psychological explanation of how police interrogation methods affect the "average" person's ability to understand and exert his or her Miranda rights and what makes the mentally ill so much more susceptible to police coercion and likely to falsely confess.