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SOCS244-Understanding Crime Justice And Punishment

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You are required to identify one criminological issue and analyse it from the perspective of one or more of the criminological theories discussed during the first semester of this course. The essay should also evaluate the current criminal justice policies deployed to deal with this issue. Lastly, the essay should discuss potential policy alternatives derived from the criminological theories used to analyse the chosen issue.


Thesis Statement

Thesis statement for the assignment is insanity defense: A criminological Examination.


The topic of the assignment is focused on issues named mental illness and disorder and their relation with the crime with the perspective of defense. The association between these factors has been the lead focus for many decades (Stevens, 2013). Behind every crime, there are certain reasons, which work as lead force and promote a criminal to commit such crime. These reasons are often known as theories of criminology (Briggs, 2018). In the presented assignment, many criminological theories will also be discussed. Mental illness and disorders are other aspects in the area of criminology. These aspects are a topic of debate because in many of the cases judges do allows the same as defense and many times, they do not do so. The center of the debate is to check that how important insanity defense is for the criminals who commit crime cause of mental illness or related criminological theories.

There is a strong relationship between mental disorder and criminal law and the criminological theories develop such relation (Maillet, 2018). The justice processes in criminal cases are far clear but the same gets complicated when a defendant of a case diagnosed with mental disorder or insanity. Such issues among defendants affect the whole justice process from investigation till the final justice.

In the assignment further, many of the criminological theories will be discussed that put a significant impact on the offending and reoffending of a criminal and affect their mental health in various modes. The study of mental disorder and insanity is also important for the reason to check the intention of the criminal. The intention is a significant term for the judges to give a decision under criminal cases.

In addition to mental disorder, some other forces are also there cause of which a person commits the crime. These causes reflect by the different criminological theories (Criminal Justice, 2018). The assignment will include the different criminological theories, their relationship with insanity and examination of the insanity defense. 


What is Insanity? 

Before moving ahead with any order discussion, firstly this is necessary to understand that what exactly insanity is? In a general sense, this may be stated that insanity is a mental state in which a person does not remain an understanding one any longer. The brain is the element, that gives instructions to the human body, but when a person is insane, he/she cannot think like a reasonable person. There is no worldwide-accepted definition of insanity. In the opinion of doctors, insanity is a wider term in comparison to what a legal system includes. It is a situation where a person does not know that what actually he/she is doing and what results their action can lead (Howes, 2009). The mental illness and disorder is not a limited term and included many of the diseases (, 2018).  Insanity is also known as mental disorders. It is a mental status brings several disturbances in the behavior as well as in thought process of a person that makes him/her incapable to cope up with the ordinary routines and demands of life. This would not be wrong to state that insanity leads out an innocence behavior in a person, as the same cannot plan anything intentionally. According to the age and surrounding of a person, there can be several reasons behind the development of an insanity issue to a person.

Relationship of insanity and Psychopathy

The term Psychopathy is important to discuss here as the same is very much connected to mental thinking and criminological theories. Many of the people understand Psychopathy as a kind of insanity, nevertheless, the scope of both of these term i.e insanity and Psychopathy is different from one another. Psychopathy is a deep subject to study. According to the seminal 2012 FBI report, most of the criminals in a prison have founded Psychopaths (Tang, 2016). A Psychopath is a person who has less or even no emotion in respect to others. Such people do the acts what they think of correct. They are unabashed in their action in against of others (Bonn, 2018).

Many of the criminological theories are there which are connected with the mental status of mind. A criminal plan a crime with the help of his/her mind, and therefore the insane people cannot do the same. Psychopathy is a term that connects criminological theories to the insanity state.

Although this is to be stated that all Psychopaths are not insane, however, they are not mentally healthy. In actual out of many studies and research results, it has been noted that Psychopaths have more intelligent brain compare to normal people (Sheridan, 2012). They have the ability to develop the plans and to execute the same very smartly. A Psychopathy often considers as antisocial one. This can be stated that an insane and a Psychopath both are mentally ill but an insane person is innocent in general whereas a Psychopath has the capability to plan a crime with a mens rea.

Criminological theories related to mental health

As mentioned earlier, criminals get influenced by some of the factors and commit a crime; these factors are known as criminological theories. Therefore, criminological theories can be understood as forces behind of a crime. Many of the researchers have developed their research on the topic namely "relationship between criminal behavior and mental disorders." Insanity is a topic that relates to many of the criminological theories. Following are some of the criminological theories that will explain that in which manner, mental health of a criminal get affect by various factors

  • Rational Choice Theory: - This theory of crime believes that every behavior of a criminal has an objective and goal. According to this theory, all the criminal activities aimed at achieving some desired goals. According to many of the studies, people with mental disorder often commit crimes under this theory. The reason behind the same is that such people depend on others for emotional and material support and therefore violence becomes rational for them (Silver, 2014a) . They choose criminal behavior over and above other consideration in their lives. Crimes by insane people are not random and the same has a proper reasoning, as stipulated above.
  • Social Disorganization Theory: - This theory makes it focus on the environment and believes that a person commits crime because of social environment and surroundings (Grossman, 2016). As the name implies, the theory believes that a person gets influenced by neighborhood characteristics. When it comes to the application of this theory to mentally disordered people, it has been seen that in the current time, such people remain in care house where they seek all kind of mental health services. A handful of research and studies have tried to evaluate the impact of neighborhood on the violent behavior of mentally sick people. All these studies have found that people with mental disorders are more likely to commit the crimes and violence in comparison to other people as they live in poor neighborhoods and the same affect their behavior.
  • Social Control Theory:- Social control theory states that many of the social boundaries such as relationship, commitment, norms, and values are there which encourages an individual to comply with all the possible laws. When all the other criminological theories focus on the topic that why people commit a crime, social control theory provides opposite approach (, 2018). It states that why people do refrain from offending. The theory believes that a person commits a crime when social bonds are not strong. This theory is also an important one to study in respect to people with mental disorders. Mentally disordered people are incapable to achieve the valued life generally. For instance, they remain incapable to finish their high school, to get an employment and to get married timely. In this manner, they do have less access to the interdependent systems of obligation, which increase criminal behavior in them. Even if they somehow managed to engage in culturally prescribed roles, which increases social controls, these roles involve interpersonal conflict (Silver, 2014b). People with a mental disorder get less support and more rejection from society and therefore according to this theory, people with mental disorders are more likely to commit crimes.
  • Biological Theory: - As the name reflects, the theory says that a person gets his/her criminal behavior from his/her parents. The theory believes that people are born criminal and there is no role of social, economic, or other factors to develop the same into a criminal. In cases of mentally disordered people, the theory believes that such people get their insanity inheritance and therefore becomes the criminal cause of their insanity and violence behavior. According to the Lombroso's Theory, mentally ill people get their criminal behavior from their parents (, 2018). 

In addition to the aforementioned theories, some other criminological theories are also there that develop criminal behavior in insane/mentally ill people. Self-Control theory is one out of them. The theory says that a person acts to fulfill his/her endless desires. According to this theory, there is no requirement of having a particular reason to commit the crime (Clevenger, Navarro and Jasinski, 2016). The self-interest and human desires are enough to motivate a person to commit a crime. A person who does not know to control his/her desires becomes a Psychopath when such desires do not get fulfill and in order to satisfy those desires, the same turn into a criminal. Applying this theory to mentally ill people, this is to be stated that they remain incapable to fulfill their desires and therefore there is a chance that they turn into criminal in comparison to other people.

Strain Theory is a most important theory to discuss in this context. The theory itself says that a person who commits a crime do the same in order to get some relief from his/her personal stress. For instance, an individual who is facing poverty can become a thief. Probabilities are there that a mentally ill person can become criminal under this theory as such people face a lot of strain from their families as well as society. To release out that strain, insane people commit more crime. All these criminological theories, when study in the context of insane people, force them to commit crime and present in more volume in comparison to other people.

What is Insanity Defense 

Mental disorders and illness works as a defense in many of the criminal cases. It means the court does not held a person liable who has committed a crime if such person is a legally insane (Law.Com, 2018). It becomes a typical situation for the courts too as they cannot determine the liability of a person who commits a crime and is a victim of mental illness. In some of the cases, the court held such people liable for a crime but give them very less punishment. However, this is to be stated that the court must have reason to believe in the insanity of the criminal.

The insanity defense is an excuse that provides a safeguard to a person who is mentally insane at the commitment of a crime.

Under Singapore law, a person can take the defense of insanity in a criminal case subject to the terms and requirements of the law (Cheong, Yeo and Hor, 2013). According to the rule of defense of insanity, a person will not be held liable if he/she is not able to understand that what he/she is doing and is not able to know the consequences of his/her act.

Mental disorders have a significant impact on the crime rate. The legal system has their different basis to determine that whether the factors like mental disorder and illness put any impact on the reduction of crime. Crime can be intentional and unintentional (Yaffe, 2012). People, who are insane, mostly do a crime without any wrongful intention. The mental disorder of a person, reduce the possibility of intentional crime because an insane person cannot plan a crime intentionally, and this is the reason that crime committed by a person having a mental disorder is usually unintentional and court do not punish such the criminal because of the insanity defense.

Insanity Defense: A Criminology Examination

As mentioned earlier, the insanity defense is a significant term in the area of criminology as it provides a safeguard to most of the criminals.  Most of the crimes require a criminal must be of the guilty mind (Thompson, 2012). What a defendant was thinking of while committing a crime or what was the reason behind doing so. Here the role of forces behind a crime comes into light. There can be a number of reason for that a person commits a crime; however, the intention is a different thing to be discussed.

The test of Mens Rea allows a justice system to make a difference between the person who did a crime intentionally and in another person who did it without any intention (Science Direct, 2018). The situation where a person commits a crime without having any wrongful intention, there is a high chance that such a person has suffered from some kind of mental illness or illness. As the intention is highly significant to review in the cases of crime, the person with mental disorder grants some privileges over and above other criminals as it is very general that a person who is not even able to understand the other things cannot plan a crime intentionally (Rueve and welton, 2008). This privilege is nothing else but insanity defense.

Under the criminal law of any nation, the decision is more strict in those cases where a person commits a crime intentionally in comparison to those where a person does the same unintentionally. However, in the recent years, some criminal law has been developed in which the intention remains no longer a topic of discussion and judges held a person victim who commits a crime regardless of his/her intention. Such rule is termed as strict liability rule.

The mental illness and disorder is not a limited term and included many of the diseases (, 2018). It has been noted that while reviewing the state of mind of a criminal, the court only considers the complete insanity or some other defined disorders. The medical science is a broad subject and the same identifies a number of diseases related to mind which affect the behavior of a person. A human body acts according to the instructions of the brain and one cannot be expected to act as a reasonable person if the mind of the same does not work in a natural manner (Teenshealth, 2018). Only some kinds of mental disorders can be used as a defense before the courts in criminal cases, whereas in the opinions of psychiatrists and psychologist, there are a number of other disorders also do exist. 


It is not right to exclude all such mental disorders from the purview of insanity defense that actually exist and affect the behavior of a person. What about the rights of a person who is not completely insane but the mental situation of such a person is not completely normal. The judges need to understand that behavior of a person strictly affects the crime, and it is the human brain, which controls such behavior. If a mind of a person is not stable, how can he/she be expected to behave like any other healthy person? (Morin, 2018). If a person commits a crime because of the instability of his/her mind or any other mental, the same cannot be held liable because of innocent nature.

Refusal or withdraw of defense

In many of the cases, it has been set out that a person who found not guilty because of his/her insanity cannot refuse to take this defense further in the case. It means a person cannot withdraw this defense in order to pursue some other alternatives. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions to this rule. It means some situations are there when a person can refuse to take this defense even after accepting the same once. State v. Connelly, 700 A.2d 694 (Conn. App. Ct. 1997), is the significant case to study here. In this case, the criminal has found not guilty at the very first instance because of his mental condition, but later on, the criminal has rejected this defense by filing a pro se writ of habeas corpus. Frendak v. United States, 408 A.2d 364 is a landmark decision, where it was given that insanity defense cannot grant forcefully to someone. If a criminal does not want to take the same, the court cannot grant this defense forcefully.

Issues involved

Scope and definition of insanity are different under the medical system and legal system and hence some issues are involved in criminal cases. It has been reviewed in many of the cases and practices describe the same that justices send the criminal to prison when they do not fall under the category of insane regardless of their other mental disorders (Vaths and Rajpal, 2018). A person who is medically insane sends to the prison by justices where he/she was required to refer to a hospital in actual, which is not fair. Apart from the complete insanity, there are many order disorders do exist where a person loses his/her capacity of thinking and due to the same commits some crime. As this disorder is not insanity in the opinion of the law, justices treat such person as a criminal under criminal law and send the same to prison. 


Current scenario v expected one

At present, section 84 of the Penal Code says that a person of unsound mind will not be held liable for any type of crime committed by him/her as this is to understand that such person cannot do a crime intentionally (Singapore Statues Online, 2018). The definition of unsound mind is limited to complete or almost completes insanity. The person who does not fall in this category but has some issues with mental health cannot get any remedy. To take a defense of insanity, a person needs to be completely unsound with his/her mind.

Definition of insanity should be changed in order to provide proper justice to both the parties to the case. Medical insanity is also a disorder. A person, who is already incapable of mind, should not be more bother on the basis of criteria of his/her insanity. If doctors are considering a person insane then legal system should support such circumstances. Sending a person with a mental disorder to prison cannot be called a valid decision. The same is not even ethical.

The issue discussed above is possible to resolve. By introducing other mental disorders to the definition of insanity, the issue can be deal with. The insanity defense is not new and is there since years in the judicial system. The topic is important to study also for another reason as the sanity of a person influence the decision of judges and mental disorders and insanity provides the judges a basis for the judgment


In order to complete the presented essay, this is to state that insanity is a mental state in which a person commits a crime without any wrongful intention. Criminological theories are another area of study in Criminal law that has been discussed in the presented essay. These theories are the major forces behind a crime. Psychopathy of a person can also be considered as a criminal theory because according to this, a person first becomes psycho and then convert into a criminal in the cases of psychopathy. This is the reason that this can state that all the rude and violent criminals are a psychopath but not every psychopath is necessarily a criminal. Insanity is a mental situation of a person where a second person has reason to believe that the insane person cannot plan a crime. How justices can held such person liable? The insanity defense is there to protect the insane and mentally disordered people from unjustified charges and punishments, and the same is a very significant aspect of criminology. The current legal system that is presented to deal with the issue is also been reviewed and discussed. By looking after the discussion made above, this would be correct to mention that the current legal system is not supportive enough. The person who is not completely insane cannot take the insanity defense even being mentally disabled in another way. Doctors have more knowledge about the mental status of someone's mind and justices should consider the comments and opinions of doctors 



Bonn, S. A. (2018) Understanding Psychopathic Criminals. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Briggs, S. (2018). Important theories in criminology: why people commit crime. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Cheong, C., W., Yeo, S., and Hor, (2013) Criminal Law for the 21st Century: A Model Code for Singapore. Singapore: Academy Publishing.

Clevenger, S.L., Navarro, J.N. and Jasinski, J.L., 2016. A matter of low self-control? Exploring differences between child pornography possessors and child pornography producers/distributers using self-control theory. Sexual Abuse, 28(6), pp.555-571. 

Criminal Justice. (2018) Criminology Theories. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018] (2018) Social Control Theory. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/11/2018]

Fremstad Law.Com, 2018) Mental Health Defenses In Criminal Cases: How Do They Work And How Often Are They Employed? [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Frendak v. United States, 408 A.2d 364

Grossman, L. S. (2016) The Salience Of Social Disorganization And Criminal Opportunity Theories In Explaining Chronic Violent Crime. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018] (2018) The ‘born criminal’? Lombroso and the origins of modern criminology. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/11/2018]

Howes, R. (2009) The Definition of Insanity is... [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018] (2018) Insanity. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Maillet, J. (2018) Experienced on both sides of the courtroom. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Morin, A. (2018) 7 Signs You're Not Mentally Strong, You're Just Acting Tough. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018] (2018) Types Of Mental Illness. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Rueve, M.E. and Welton, R.S., 2008. Violence and mental illness. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 5(5), p.34.

Science Direct, 2018) Mens Rea. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Silver, E. (2014b) Understanding the relationship between mental disorder and violence: The need for a criminological perspective. Law and Human Behavior, 30(6), pp.685-706

Silver, E.(2014a) Understanding the relationship between mental disorder and violence: The need for a criminological perspective. Law and Human Behavior, 30(6), pp.685-706

Singapore Statues Online. (2018) Penal Code. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

State v. Connelly, 700 A.2d 694

Tang, M. (2016) Research Proposal. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]

Teenshealth, (2018) Brain and Nervous System. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 15/10/2018]

Thompson, L. D. (2012) in criminal trials, the 'guilty mind' does matter. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 13/10/2018]


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