HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Most Youths Tried as Adults Had Psychiatric Disorders

US News reports on a Chicago study that finds that more than two-thirds of youths tried as adults needed help with at least one mental illness.  From HealthDay News, US News writes,

HandcuffsThe majority of youths who are tried in criminal courts as adults have a psychiatric disorder, researchers report.

Juveniles who are transferred to adult court, known as "transferred youths," are a growing population. Between 1983 and 1998, the number of transferred youths in the United States almost quadrupled.

In a study in the September issue of Psychiatric Services, Jason J. Washburn of Chicago's Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and colleagues examined the cases of 1,715 youths, aged 13 to 18, who were processed in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago. Of the youths, 275 were transferred to adult court.

The researchers found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the transferred youths had a psychiatric disorder, and almost half (43 percent) had two or more types of disorders. The transferred youths who were eventually sentenced to prison had even higher rates of psychiatric disorders.

Another finding was that black and Hispanic males were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be transferred, even when the researchers controlled for violent crime. This is important, since there is evidence that males from minority groups are among the least likely to receive mental health treatment, either in the community or in prison.

"This finding suggests an urgent situation in which the largest numbers of transferred youths in need of psychiatric services are also the least likely to receive them," the study authors wrote.

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The youths had disruptive behavior disorders. These are synonyms for adult antisocial personality disorder. They would get relabeled solely for reaching the 18th birthday. Antisocial personality disorder is associated with fearlessness, inability to learn from punishment, inability to be deterred. This means incarceration is the proper response for these young thugs, so that they can no longer hurt people.

The doctor was appealing, in psychiatric rent seeking, for greater employment of psychiatrists in jails. That would benefit the peers and guards, by reducing the aggressiveness and impulsivity of these dangerous criminals.

Did you mean to imply a differing conclusion from this article?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2008 8:54:17 AM

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