MY FREE EXPRESSION. Schizophrenics are not criminals

Written by Fernando Milanés

31 de agosto de 2022

The relationship between psychiatric illness and criminality has been the topic of intense debate and scrutiny in the recent past in light of multiple mass shootings in the United States. While the renewed focus and media attention on the importance of mental health in the aftermath of such tragedies is a positive development, the relationship between mental illness and criminality is too often conflated. The popular belief is that people with mental illness are more prone to commit acts of violence and aggression. The public perception of psychiatric patients as dangerous individuals is often rooted in the portrayal of criminals in the media as «crazy» individuals. A large body of data suggests otherwise. People with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator. This bias extends all the way to the criminal justice system, where persons with mental illness get treated as criminals, arrested, charged, and jailed for a longer time in jail compared to the general population. This activity reviews psychiatric illness and criminality and the role of the interprofessional team in caring for afflicted patients.  Psychiatric Illness and Criminality Noman Ghiasi; Yusra Azhar; Jasbir Singh. 1/15/2022

In the recent defense of Richard Rojas (a Navy Veteran)., accused of driving his car into a crowd in Times Square, hurting 22 and killing one the defense argued that he was “not in control of his actions” because he suffered from a mental illness (schizophrenia).    

The jury bought into this argument, and he was freed and will be sent to a Psychiatric facility in lieu of jail.  

 I have not evaluated the accused, so my opinion has to be taken as generic, based on my over 30 years of practice (20 with veterans).    

The headline in the NYPost that he won’t do prison for being insane and corroborated in the article describes a false notion of crimes committed by the mentally ill.    

As described above, these occurrences are extremely rare, and declaring someone legally insane even more so.  

Not only it requires a diagnosis but proof that the accused did not know the difference between right and wrong (M’Naghten rule) or had an Irresistible Impulse that leads to the act.   

Neither of these motives were shown or proven in court.  In fact, his own first declaration to the police “I wanted to kill them” disproves both legal insanity rules.    

He obviously knew he had committed a wrong act and not by any psychotic impulse, but his free will.

It is time to stop using the excuse of mental illness as justification for an evil act.  As research has amply proved, sufferers of these maladies are mostly victims and not perpetrators.

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