crazy people go to prison?
January 23, 2008 8:53 PM   Subscribe

can a paranoid schizophrenic be put in prison for having an attack in a bank and tearing up the place? No one was injured, but I did destroy many tables, chairs and television sets before I was detained. I was having both auditory and visual hallucinations.
posted by DillonArt to Law & Government (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Insanity can indeed be a defense before the law. Consult a good lawyer.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2008

Yes, get a good lawyer. I'm not a lawyer, but if no one was hurt but you're still facing felonies, a lawyer can definitely make the difference between supervised psychiatric care and actual state prison time. Either way, depends on the charges filed, your criminal history, medical history, and how aggressive the DA's office is. Best of luck.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:58 PM on January 23, 2008

I did not remember what happened until the police showed me the video from the bank. They had me strapped down in a tiny cold room for eight days. I barely drank water the whole time because they told me that I was not going to be unstrapped. I was so sick by the time they let me out, i could barely walk and it took me two days to find my way home.
posted by DillonArt at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2008

No one could understand my speech. I have a major tremor on the right side of my body, from my foot all the way to my head and I can't speak properly. I just jerk around and fall down alot.
posted by DillonArt at 9:07 PM on January 23, 2008

Thanks for your help. When all my medications are working together properly I will find a lawyer before I have to go to court.
posted by DillonArt at 9:10 PM on January 23, 2008

See if your county/state has legal resources available for people with mental health issues. If you don't have money for a lawyer, you're going to need all the help you can get in your corner. It probably will be very hard for you (with or without video of the incident)to convince the judge presiding over this caze that you had a schizophrenic attack without an advocate of some sort.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:12 PM on January 23, 2008

Oddly enough, I had a female client who created a disturbance in a bank during a decomp that sounds similar to yours. She was charged with simple assault, reckless endangerment and retail theft. The charges are still pending but previous instances where she acted out in public like this were diverted to mental health court. In fact, she was referred to my program via the mental health court system originally, which is how she wound up on my caseload. She had a pretty extensive history of chronic paranoid schizophrenia and was currently receiving intensive case management services, which I think will work in her favor on her court date, though a lot depends on which judge you draw and how informed on mental health issues they are.

However, unfortunately the short answer is yeah, mentally ill people go to prison all the time, in fact the prison system is teeming with mental illness and the prison system isn't known to be the best place to receive adequate treatment, either.
posted by The Straightener at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2008

Where do you live? I can mabye give you some referrals for places to call.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:39 PM on January 23, 2008

Wiki entry on Durham's Rule and article from Canadian Medical Assoc Journal titled "Divergent Views Between Law and Psychiatry on Problems of Sentencing" might explain the issue. There is a downloadable pdf of the full article on site. Makes quite interesting reading.
posted by kryptos at 9:43 PM on January 23, 2008

"Crazy" people can indeed go to prison, I'm afraid. Please get a good lawyer. Get your medications (and other treatment) in order AS you get a good lawyer. Is there anyone at all who could help you through this? Now is a time where I do feel that your friends and family are morally obligated to get you the very best lawyer and to keep you out of jail. I can only imagine how frightening this time must be - it would be unconscionable to let you go through this alone.

I wish you the very best. I wish I knew of a way to personally help.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:45 PM on January 23, 2008

You can start here to find your local "protection and advocacy."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:49 PM on January 23, 2008

I think the question has been well answered: yes, you can go to prison, but no, you won't necessarily. You should get a good lawyer, undergo a thorough examination, and begin acting on whatever treatment plan is recommended. The best shield against prison is proof that you know there's a problem and you're doing undergoing treatment for it.

Good luck.
posted by robcorr at 10:32 PM on January 23, 2008

You most certainly need to speak to a lawyer, preferably one who specializes in criminal and mental health law, since, strangely enough, it may be better not to be "acquitted by reason of a mental disorder". This all depends very much where you are, the availability of psychiatric secure wards, and the principles and practice of your jurisdiction. It is rare, but not unheard of for someone to be under state control for a longer period of time due to an acquittal rather than a criminal sentencing. Only a lawyer familiar with your local laws, policies and procedures is going to be able to advise you properly so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. Also, only a local competent lawyer will know the intricacies of how the criminal and medical fields intersect in the specifics of your case.
posted by birdsquared at 10:34 PM on January 23, 2008

Not only can a paranoid schizophrenic go to jail, but people with mental illness often do. It helps if you've already been diagnosed with the illness and can refer the lawyer to a doctor that can confirm the diagnosis.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 PM on January 23, 2008

Wiki entry on Durham's Rule

See also: M'naghten Rule.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:42 AM on January 24, 2008

Many people have already said it, but get a good lawyer. Whether the mentally ill should go to jail, and whether they can or will are two very different questions. It probably depends greatly on the judge you get, laws and programs available in your vicinity, and how well your lawyer does presenting your case. The first two you can't really control. The last you can. Get a good lawyer who has good experience representing schizophrenics and the mentally ill. Also, ask whoever you are getting treatment from if they know any places that may offer resources for people in your position. There may be organizations that can help you find good legal counsel and help you with any paperwork a bureaucratic hurdles, which can often be difficult for people with mental illnesses.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:50 AM on January 24, 2008

It's probably fair to say that the prison system is just full of people who might be mentally ill or otherwise cognitively compromised.
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that during his tenure in the State of New York, the State Government "closed 40 State Mental Institutions...and opened 400 new prisons". That, he said sarcastically, "was progress".
posted by bunky at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2008

Before proceding with any decision to retain a lawyer please investigate the options Claudia presents in her link, there are mental health advocates with legal expertise that handle situations like this. In Philadelphia mental health advocates operate sort of like public defenders but with mental health expertise. Don't freak out quite yet if you can't afford an attorney, there might be other options available to you that might be worth looking at first.
posted by The Straightener at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2008

The prison term for wanton destruction of property is probably only a year or two, especially if there was no malice aforethought, intent to injure, or robbery in the offing.

If a person gets committed for being violently insane, though, they're still in prison, and there's no set exit date. And prisons/mental hospitals have special deals for docs to come practice - docs who've lost their licenses, often, and can't practice anywhere else.

Probably worth considering.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:00 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another penny to add to my $00.02 -- the public defenders, though over-worked and crazy-busy, often know a ton about psychiatric disability and the court system. A huge proportion of their caseload is people with psychiatric conditions, often severe. So if you end up with a P.D., you may want to try to meet with them and ask them what will impress the judge WRT the incident and your current status (e.g. psychiatric report explaining why you had a bad episode? plan for renewed stability such as new psychiatrist and new medication regimen? new outpatient treatment program? whatever). Bring someone with you and make a list.

Then your P.D. may disappear 'til the next court event but go get the evidence that he/she recommends. Sign up for the program, go get the reports, beg/borrow from family members if there's a charge, put together a packet of documentation and support people. Have the people and the documents with you at the court hearings. It can make a huge difference.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:59 AM on January 24, 2008

Seconding the Straightener that you should follow up ClaudiaCenter's link. You need an advocate (someone to look out for you) just as much as you need a lawyer. That way even during times when your meds aren't stablised, your interests are still being protected. If you're not feeling well enough to follow this up now, is there someone who could do it for you? It's better to get help as soon as possible - don't put it off.

Best of luck.
posted by tiny crocodile at 12:03 PM on January 24, 2008

Good luck. My boyfriend managed to plea bargain a felony committed while in a manic episode to probation, and after a year of good behavior it went off his record (this was in Walla Walla, WA), but he had a very good lawyer and shrink. It is definitely possible you can keep a clean record.
posted by herbaliser at 12:36 PM on January 24, 2008

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers legal support for situations such as yours.
posted by Serena at 8:29 PM on January 24, 2008

« Older Where can we learn to make cheese near Chicago?   |   Rules of High Jump. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.