Back in June I posted a translation of a remarkable opinion piece written by two senior psychiatrists, commenting on their examination of a mentally ill man who had just committed his second murder. Today the papers report that Socialstyrelsens Rättsliga råd (“The judicial council of the social directorate”) has found the man insufficiently crazy to qualify for forced psychiatric treatment. This is bad news, because it means that he will likely be sentenced to jail, and Swedish jail terms for murder being surprisingly brief, he will probably be out again before long.
As I’ve written before, to my mind violent crime is a symptom of insanity.
Questions of the perpetrators’ sanity in cases of violent crime always have me shaking my head. To my mind, the ability to commit a highly violent crime is, in itself, a symptom of insanity for all societal intents and purposes. Insanity is defined by violent behaviour among other things. And as we have no sure methods of curing such insanity, we must simply keep violent madmen locked up and sedated indefinitely for safety’s sake. Whether this is called a jail sentence or a one-way commitment to a mental hospital is to my mind irrelevant.
My position is utilitarian: I don’t care much whether the criminal can be held philosophically responsible for the crime, and I see no point in society avenging itself on the criminal. My main priority is to minimise the risk of repeat offenses. (And many with me believe that jail time is highly counterproductive in this respect: it encourages repeat offences and a criminal career.)
A really drunk person is for society’s practical purposes insane. And people who get drunk and become violent rarely choose to do so only once. So we should keep them from drinking.
In the case of roid rage murders, we have the similar knowledge that certain individuals have taken steroids and gone nuts. This makes them a societal liability. We should make sure they don’t do it again.
Criminal “justice”, to me, should be seen as societal hygiene, health care and risk management.