CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Perlin on Forensic Psychologists and the Conditions of Institutionalization

PerlinMichael L. Perlin (New York Law School) has posted 'Your Old Road is/Rapidly Agin': International Human Rights Standards and Their Impact on Forensic Psychologists, the Practice of Forensic Psychology, and the Conditions of Institutionalization of Persons with Mental Disabilities on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

For years, considerations of the relationship between international human rights standards and the work of forensic psychologists have focused on the role of organized psychology in prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghirab. That issue has been widely discussed and debated, and these discussions show no sign of abating. But there has been virtually no attention to another issue of international human rights, one that grows in importance each year: how the treatment (especially, the institutional treatment) of persons with mental and intellectual disabilities violates international human rights law, and the silence of organized forensic psychology in the face of this mistreatment. This issue has become even more pointed in recent years, following the ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Organized forensic psychology has remained largely silent about the potential significance of this Convention and about how it demands that we rethink the way we institutionalize persons – often in brutal and barbaric conditions – around the world. In many parts of the world, circumstances are bleak: services are provided in segregated settings that cuts people off from society, often for life; persons are arbitrarily detained from society and committed to institutions without any modicum of due process; individuals are denied the ability to make choices about their lives when they are put under plenary guardianship; there is a wide-spread denial of appropriate medical care or basic hygiene in psychiatric facilities, individuals are subject to powerful and often-dangerous psychotropic medications without adequate standards, and there is virtually no human rights oversight and enforcement mechanisms to protect against the broad range of institutional abuse. Although there is a robust literature developing – interestingly, mostly in Australia and New Zealand, but little in the US – about how such institutional conditions violate the international human rights of this population, virtually nothing has been written about how organized forensic psychology has been silent about these abuses.

In this paper, I (1) discuss the relevant international human rights law that applies to these questions, (2) examine the current state of conditions in institutions worldwide, (3) argue why forensic psychology needs to become more aggressively involved in this area, and (4) offer some suggestions as to how this situation can be ameliorated.

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I was one of several counsel on a major case 37 years ago in federal court in the WD of MO. We sought to bring some relief to many inmates in a maximum security mental facility. The case is Eckerhart vs. Hensley. It went up to the Supreme Court on attorney fee issues and those issues get in the way of the true discussion about what was attempted. Some things have changed in these 37 years. I like the international law described in this article. The mentally ill or mentally deficient persons are the lowest humans on the planet. They are treated with disgust and if "treated" for their conditions are often abused. I wish that more lawyers would take these issues on and help these humans out of the swamp.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Dec 31, 2016 7:20:44 PM

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