JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mentally ill persons who commit crimes: punishment or treatment?

Yuval Melamed
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 2010, 38 (1): 100-3
20305082
In many countries, there continue to be conflicting opinions and mechanisms regarding the appropriateness of treatment and/or punishment for mentally ill individuals who commit crimes. The general population is concerned with public safety and often finds it difficult to accept the possibility that a mentally ill individual who commits a crime can be hospitalized and eventually discharged, sometimes after a relatively short time. In most countries the options of incarceration and hospitalization are available in concert. In some, incarceration occurs before hospitalization. In others, hospitalization is first, followed by a prison term. An additional option could be "treatment years." The court would determine the number of years of treatment required, according to the crime. This dilemma has no unequivocal solution. The goal is to reach a balance between the right of the patient to treatment and the responsibility of the courts to ensure public safety.

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