Essay on Are the Laws Regarding Mentally Disordered Offenders Adequate?

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Are the laws and services related to mentally disordered offenders adequate and appropriate?

Care and treatment for the Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) has always reflected society’s intolerance and punitive attitude, typified by a desire to remove persons with mental illness from public sight (Gostin, 1983). Traditionally, health care for this population was provided in institutions until the 1950s. De-institutionalisation and large-scale closures of psychiatric institutes in the 1980s resulted from therapeutic advancement and the advent of psychotropic medication, which in turn led to a need to provide care and treatment in the least restrictive setting (Geller et al, 2006 ; Morrow e al 2003). Many patients were discharged,
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High profile cases like Michael Stone, a heroin addict with severe personality disorder who in 1996 killed Lin Russel and her six-year-old daughter, Megan, in Kent; Christopher Clunis, a schizophrenic who, recently released from hospital, in 1992 stabbed newly-wed Jonathan Zito while he was waiting for a train at Finsbury Park, north London; and Seung-Hui Cho, the twenty-year- old student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007- led to increasing public calls for potentially dangerous people with mental health problems to be forced to take medication outside of hospital (Searl, 1995; Schuman, 2007; Snow & Austin, 2009). However, it can be argued that there had been inadequate care given to these patients.

An enquiry assessing the care received by Clunis’ revealed a "catalogue of failure and missed opportunity" (Ritchie et al, 1994; Coid, 1994) by made by the services. Clunis had a history of violence and posed serious danger to the public, yet he was discharged from hospital into the community with little continuity of care or supervision from both psychiatric and social services at the time he committed the offence (Coid, 1994). There was no information-sharing and collaboration among inter-agencies that were involved in his care. The enquiry observed a prolonged tendency to overlook or minimise violent incidents and a failure by a series of professionals to assess Christopher Clunis' past history