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International Human Rights and Institutional Forensic Psychiatry: The Core Issues

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The Use of Coercive Measures in Forensic Psychiatric Care

Abstract

Forensic patients have traditionally been hidden from view of the public, the legal system and the mental health system, a set of circumstances that has, for the most part, been fine with all parties (for a variety of reasons, none of which inure to the benefit of those institutionalised). Very little of the “civil rights revolution” that has made civil psychiatric hospitals and facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities less hidden from view (and has led to those individuals raising their voices in protest of dehumanising conditions, after decades/centuries of being silenced) has had a spillover impact on those in forensic facilities. The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—when read in light of the Convention Against Torture (CAT)—makes it more likely, for the first time, that attention will be paid to the conditions of confinement, worldwide, of this population, how those conditions regularly violate international human rights law and how those who are in charge of these institutions do so with impunity. In this chapter, I focus on the relationship between the CRPD and the CAT in questions related to the treatment of institutionalised forensic patients (those admitted to psychiatric institutions following involvement in the criminal justice system) and highlight some of the key issues that must be examined in this context. I argue further that shedding light on the deplorable conditions on forensic facilities and spreading awareness about the treatment in which patients are subjected is the first step in ensuring equality and reducing the stigma of mental illness. I also consider these issues in the context of the theory of therapeutic jurisprudence and conclude that the current state of affairs violates the precepts of that school of legal thought.

Some of this chapter is adapted from Perlin and Schriver (2013).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The third edition of this treatise will be published in 2016, and, at that time, all section numbers will change. That version should be cited as Perlin, M. & Cucolo, H. (2016). Mental Disability Law: Civil and Criminal (3rd ed.). Newark NJ: LexisNexis Publishing.

  2. 2.

    ‘Sanism’ is an irrational prejudice of the same quality and character of other irrational prejudices that cause and are reflected in prevailing social attitudes of racism, sexism, homophobia and ethnic bigotry (Perlin 1992).

  3. 3.

    ‘Pretextuality’ refers to ways that courts accept and even encourage, either implicitly or explicitly, testimonial dishonesty, especially on the part of expert witnesses (Perlin 1993).

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The author wishes to thank Katherine Davies for her invaluable editing help.

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Perlin, M.L. (2016). International Human Rights and Institutional Forensic Psychiatry: The Core Issues. In: Völlm, B., Nedopil, N. (eds) The Use of Coercive Measures in Forensic Psychiatric Care. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-26748-7_2

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