What Use Insanity?

Date01 September 2008
Published date01 September 2008
DOI10.1350/ijps.2008.10.3.84
What use insanity?
Andy Bainand Megan Thomas
‡ (Corresponding author) Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth,
St George's Building, 141 High Street, Old Portsmouth, PO1 2HY, UK. Tel: +44 (0)23 9284
3941; email: andy.j.bain@port.ac.uk
†Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, St George's Building,
141 High Street, Old Portsmouth, PO1 2HY, UK. Tel: +44 (0)23 9284 5071; email:
megan.thomas@port.ac.uk
Received 18 April 2007; revised and accepted 19 June 2007
Keywords: mental health, mental illness, definitions of insanity, capital
punishment UK, capital punishment USA
Andy Bain
is based at the Institute of Criminal
Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, where
he has been a member of the academic teaching
staff for the past four years. He is currently
undertaking a PhD in offender rehabilitation and
support in the community. He has published on a
number of topics including the Prison Service in
England and Wales, rehabilitation and desistance
and the history of crime and punishment. Addi-
tionally, he is currently research active in a num-
ber of independent studies including: aggressive
driving behaviours and professional perceptions
of role and responsibility.
Megan Thomas
is based at the Institute of
Criminal Justice Studies, University of Ports-
mouth, where she has also been a member of
the academic teaching staff for the past four
years. Her initial work was as a research assistant
on a project looking at professional cultures in
the criminal justice system. Currently, she is
developing research into independent custody
visiting, and the impact of the National Offender
Management Service on probation and prison
staff.
A
BSTRACT
This short article looks to consider the use of
punishment for those offenders suffering with a
mental health issue and the particular difficulties
inherent in a system that has little in the way of
secure social provision (RCP, 2004). Particular
attention is paid to the use of imprisonment,
where clear guidance exists in the Mental Health
Act 1983 for the diversion of such offenders from
custody at the earliest opportunity. The article
will consider the historic and current debate
surrounding the role and use of capital punish-
ment, looking to examples from within the
United Kingdom and in the contemporary
United States of America. Finally, the discussion
will make reference to the argument of a moral
panic (Cohen, 2002), which leads to a political
and social discourse, and the media contribution
to the debate of a return for capital punishment.
INTRODUCTION
A rethink is needed for offenders with
mental health problems, with a shift from
prison to more appropriate settings
(RCP, 2004)
It seems evident that where questions arise
regarding the appropriateness of punish-
ment, it is never more important than when
dealing with vulnerable offenders and those
suffering some form of mental health diffi-
culty. Historically, the debate has centred on
the use of custody and capital punishment,
in which numerous examples suggest cau-
tion is needed. In contrast to the findings
International Journal of Police
Science and Management,
Vol. 10 No. 3, 2008, pp. 280-288.
DOI: 10.1350/ijps.2008.10.3.84
Page 280
International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume 10 Number 3

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