Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's cheaper to kick somebody's ass

My attention returns from Hollywood to Southern Illinois. Chester to be precise, in Randolph County.... One reverts to a peculiar frame of mind, about as far away from Hollywood as it's possible to get culturally, without departing (which has become, in my lifetime, amazingly difficult) from Western Civilization itself.

C. Rodney Yoder was my first client, and he remains my closest conscious connection to both Southern Illinois and Dr. Thomas Szasz. Rodney referred me to an article today, which reports that a Cook County judge recently found a 55-year-old defendant not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. (NGRI verdicts are still curiously common in bench trials, although they've long been a much tougher sell to juries.)

This defendant had been held as unfit to stand trial at Chester Mental Health Center and forcibly drugged with various psychotropic poisons for several years. All the heroic "treatment" ultimately had produced no change, according to a testifying state psychiatrist.

The article makes special mention of a proclamation the defendant once made in court: "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a sociopath." Many people would say this was just an incoherent outburst from a sub-human madman. However, my own professional experience has taught me to consider whether it might mean something. This murderer might have been telling us he'd rather be in prison for the rest of his life than in a state nuthouse.

I think the distinction between sociopath and a psychopath boils down to this: If you're a sociopath, the rest of us will sooner or later gang up to kick your ass; if you're a psychopath, the rest of us will sooner or later gang up to "treat" you.

From the criminal's point of view, the right to choose one situation or the other might be desirable. Some would rather fight to the death, others would rather be (psychiatric) slaves.

For society on the other hand, it's a simple question of utility. There's little or no benefit from either course of action, but it's probably much cheaper to kick somebody's ass.

I'm not sure whether I would stand for the rights of murderers to decide their fates or not. But when somebody wants to go to prison, maybe they should be allowed to save the state the 400% higher expense of involuntary psychiatric "hospitalization". The only counterpoint to that, as far as I can see, is that if we find a murderer to be mad instead of bad, it allows some of us us to pretend we're being humane and scientific.

That's nonsense, of course. They know it down in Chester, too, even if they don't in Hollywood.

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