Worlds of Criminal Justice and Term Paper

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"(Bonnie et al.)

For many the ability of a client to participate in pleading insanity is controversial. Many contend that this ability shows that the person is rational and should be punished accordingly. While others argue that, the ability of a person to know that they are insane does not make them sane. In either case, the insanity plea remains as a controversial subject.

Within the realm of psychology, the issue of insanity has always been a topic of interest. Psychologists have long asserted that there are various mental conditions that render individuals insane. These conditions include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and even certain forms of depression. Psychologists contend that these conditions can make an individual unable to rationalize.

A book entitled Court-Ordered Insanity: Interpretive Practice and Involuntary Commitment explains that many cases involve the hospitalization or commitment of the client. In these cases, the book explains that the client mental problems make it difficult for them to operate in a normal prison environment. In such cases, the criminal is placed in a facility so that they can get the proper treatment. (Holstein 1993)

The book also asserts that courts have preconceived notions about the mentally ill. The author explains that as court personnel impute mental illness, they implicitly structure their interpretations of patients' behavior more generally. That behavior, viewed as a product of mental illness, then serves to further document the presence of the illness itself. Thus, descriptions of patients as mentally ill and subsequent interpretations of their behavior stand in a fundamentally dialectical relation to one another. The underlying pattern -mental illness -- provides the basis for interpreting actions in a meaningful, distinctive way. The actions, so interpreted, in turn serve to document, substantiate, and sustain the underlying pattern." (Holstein 1993)

The journal Teaching Psychology asserts that there is also a distinction to be made between defendants that plead "not guilty by reason of insanity" and those that plead "guilty but mentally ill." (Fass 1999) the article asserts that the former indicates that the client is not guilty of the crime because they are insane. The latter describes an individual that acknowledges their guilty but believes that their behavior was exacerbated by an existing mental illness. (Fass 1999) These distinctions are important to make because they can carry very different sentences


The purpose of this discussion was to provide detailed information about the insanity plea and its purpose in the criminal justice system. We found that the insanity plea is often used when an individual does not have the ability to rationalize. We also found that it is a controversial subject within the realm of criminal justice.

We also investigated how the insanity plea relates to psychology. Our investigation suggests that the insanity plea can be used in case where clients have been deemed schizophrenic, bipolar or diagnosed with certain forms of depression. We concluded that the insanity plea is necessary in cases where people are not rational due to insanity. We also found that the insanity plea could be abused by those that do not want to take responsibility for their actions.


Bonnie, R.J., Poythress, N.G., Hoge, S.K., Monahan, J., & Eisenberg, M. (1996). Decision-Making in Criminal Defense: An Empirical Study of Insanity Pleas and the Impact of Doubted Client Competence. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 87(1), 48-62..

Ellias, R. (1995). Should Courts Instruct Juries as to the Consequences to a Defendant of a "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" Verdict?. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 85(4), 1062-1083.

Fass, M.E. (1999). A Forensic Psychology Exercise: Role Playing and the Insanity Defense. Teaching of Psychology, 26(3), 201-203.

Mackay, R.D. (1995). Mental Condition Defences in the Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University.

Manchester, J. (2003). Beyond Accommodation: Reconstructing the Insanity Defense to Provide an Adequate Remedy for Postpartum Psychotic Women. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 93(2-3), 713+.

Rye, J.A., Strong, D.D., & Rubba, P.A. (2001). Global Warming and Ozone Layer Depletion: STS Issues for Social Studies Classrooms. Social Education, 65(2), 90.

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