Advertisement

Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 63–70 | Cite as

Demythologizing inaccurate perceptions of the insanity defense

  • Eric Silver
  • Carmen Cirincione
  • Henry J. Steadman
Articles

Abstract

Public opinion data show that the most prevalent concern expressed regarding the insanity defense is that it is a loophole through which would-be criminals escape punishment for illegal acts. This article examines the extent to which the public's perceptions of the insanity defense are consistent with newly collected empirical data. Specifically, it compares perceptions of the use, success, and outcomes associated with the insanity defense to data derived from a large-scale study of insanity pleas in eight states. The analysis reveals that the public overestimates the use and success of an insanity defense and underestimates the extent to which insanity acquittees are confined upon acquittal. The role of selective media reporting in the formation of public perceptions is discussed.

Keywords

Social Psychology Empirical Data Public Opinion Selective Media Public Perception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Appelbaum, P. (1982). The insanity defense: New calls for reform.Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 13, 13–14.Google Scholar
  2. Braff, J., Arvinites, T., & Steadman, H. J. (1983). Detention patterns of successful and unsuccessful insanity defendants.Criminology, 21 (3), 439–448.Google Scholar
  3. Burton, N. M., & Steadman, H. J. (1978). Legal professionals' perceptions of the insanity defense.The Journal of Psychiatry and Law, Summer, 6, 173–187.Google Scholar
  4. Callahan, L. A., Steadman, H. J., McGreevy, M. A., & Robbins, P. C. (1991). The volume and characteristics of insanity defense pleas: An eight state study.Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 19(4), 331–338.Google Scholar
  5. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1981). Health and medicine on television.New England Journal of Medicine, 305, 901–904.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Hans, V. P. (1986). An analysis of public attitudes toward the insanity defense.Criminology, 4(2), 393–415.Google Scholar
  7. Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., & Cormier, C. A. (1991). Length of detention in matched groups of insanity acquittees and convicted offenders.International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 14, 223–236.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Kahn, M. W., & Raifman, L. (1981). Hospitalization versus imprisonment and the insanity plea.Criminal Justice and Behavior, 8(4), 483–490.Google Scholar
  9. Newsweek, (1992), February 3). Insanity: A defense of last resort.Newsweek, p. 49.Google Scholar
  10. Page, B. I., & Shapiro, R. Y. (1983). Effects of public opinion on policy.American Political Science Review, 77, 175–190.Google Scholar
  11. Pasewark, R. A., Pantle, M. L., & Steadman, H. J. (1982). Detention and rearrest rates of persons found not guilty by reason of insanity and convicted felons.American Journal of Psychiatry, 139, 892–897.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Pasewark, R. A., & Seidenzahl, D. (1979). Opinions concerning the insanity plea and criminality among mental patients.Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 7(2), 199–202.Google Scholar
  13. Perlin, M. L. (1993). Decoding right to refuse treatment law.International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 16, 151–177.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Roberts, C. F., & Golding, S. L. (1991). The social construction of criminal responsibility and insanity.Law and Human Behavior, 15(4), 349–376.Google Scholar
  15. Roberts, C. F., Golding, S. L., & Finchman, F. D. (1987). Implicit theories of criminal responsibility.Law and Human Behavior, 11(3), 207–232.Google Scholar
  16. Steadman, H. J., McGreevy, M. A., Morrissey, J., Callahan, L. A., Robbins, P. C., & Cirincione, C. (1993).Before and after Hinckley: Evaluating insanity defense reform. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  17. Steadman, H. J. (1985). Empirical research on the insanity defense.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 477, 58–71.Google Scholar
  18. Steadman, H. J., & Cocozza, J. C. (1978). Public perceptions of the criminally insane.Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 29(7), 457–459.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Time. (1992, February 3). Do mad acts a madman make?Time, p. 17.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Silver
    • 1
  • Carmen Cirincione
    • 2
  • Henry J. Steadman
    • 1
  1. 1.Policy Research Associates, Inc.Delmar
  2. 2.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA

Personalised recommendations