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Psychology of the Criminally Insane

by Kimmii Bolton

I'm very interested in the psychology of the Criminally Insane, as it intrigues me how the human mind works, and why certain people behave the way they do. I would love to learn know more about the subject, so if anybody has any information on this topic, I would be grateful if they could share it, along with any online resources.

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The history and development of the psychology of the criminally insane
by: John Freeman (Seattle, Washington)

The study of the psychology of the criminally insane is a captivating and controversial field that delves into the intersection of mental illness and criminal behavior. It involves understanding the minds of individuals who commit crimes while also displaying significant signs of mental disorder. Over the years, this field has evolved, influenced by advancements in psychology, sociology, criminology, law, psychiatry, and societal attitudes toward mental health.

Historical Context:

Early Notions: The concept of criminal insanity dates back to ancient times, where individuals were often considered possessed by evil spirits or punished by the divine for their actions.

Emergence of Psychiatry: In the 19th century, with the rise of modern psychiatry, there was a shift toward understanding criminal behavior from a medical perspective. The work of figures like Philippe Pinel and Dorothea Dix laid the foundation for recognizing mental illness as a factor in criminal conduct.

Development of Key Concepts:

M'Naghten Rule (1843): The trial of Daniel M'Naghten in England led to the establishment of the M'Naghten Rule, which focused on whether a defendant could distinguish right from wrong due to mental illness. This became a landmark in the insanity defense.

The Durkheim Era: Emile Durkheim's sociological theories contributed to a broader understanding of the social factors influencing criminal behavior. This era emphasized societal elements that could contribute to mental illness and crime.

Modern Forensic Psychology: In the 20th century, forensic psychology emerged as a distinct field, focusing on the interface between psychology and the legal system. Professionals began to assess the mental state of individuals involved in criminal cases, including those deemed criminally insane.

Contemporary Approaches:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides standardized criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. This has been crucial in evaluating the mental health of individuals involved in criminal cases.

Insanity Defense Reforms: Many legal systems have reformed their insanity defense criteria over time. These reforms aim to strike a balance between recognizing mental illness as a factor while ensuring that individuals who are truly criminally responsible are held accountable.

Advances in Neuroscience: Modern neuroscience has provided insights into the neurological basis of certain behaviors and mental disorders. Brain imaging techniques have contributed to understanding the brain mechanisms associated with criminal behavior and mental illness.

Treatment and Rehabilitation: Contemporary approaches also emphasize the importance of mental health treatment and rehabilitation for individuals with mental disorders who have committed crimes. These approaches aim to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior and reduce recidivism.

The history and development of the psychology of the criminally insane have evolved from ancient notions of possession to a multidisciplinary approach that combines psychology, law, psychiatry, and societal considerations. Understanding the minds of those who commit crimes while grappling with mental illness is a dynamic and evolving field that continues to shape legal and mental health practices worldwide.

Useful Links

All-About-Forensic-Psychology.Com A comprehensive guide to the fascinating world of forensic psychology.

The Insanity Defense

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