The Dually Diagnosed Client in the Criminal Justice System

  • Ruth Luckasson
Part of the Disorders of Human Learning, Behavior, and Communication book series (HUMAN LEARNING)


Persons with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system have been and continue to be the subject of a great deal of attention. Both the popular media and scholars have long focused on the plight of mentally ill criminal defendants. In contrast, the legal problems of individuals with mental retardation who come into contact with the criminal justice system have, as a group, rarely attracted the attention of scholars.1 Even criminal laws which on their face purport to address mental retardation often, upon examination, reveal considerations of mental illness but not of mental retardation. The individuals who are our focus here, those who have both mental retardation and mental illness, seem to have garnered even less reflection. They suffer the inattention accorded the defendants with mental retardation alone and engender none of the study for which people with mental illness are the focus. Consequently, this book is of vital importance in concentrating the efforts of leaders in the field and drawing the attention of policymakers to dually diagnosed individuals in the criminal justice system.


Mental Illness Mental Retardation Criminal Justice System Disable Individual Criminal Defendant 
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  1. 1.
    But see, Ellis & Luckasson, Mentally Retarded Criminal Defendants, 53 Geo. Washington Law Review 414 (1985).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See generally, Allen, The Retarded Offender: Unrecognized in Court and Untreated in Prison, 32 Fed. Probation 22 (Sept. 1968).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See e.g., Ellis & Luckasson, supra n. 1, 484–90.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
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    H. Goddard, Feehle-Mindedness: Its Causes and Consequences (1914). He ultimately renounced his alarmist and discriminatory views. See Goddard, Feeblemindedness: A Question of Definition, 33 J. Psycho-Asthenics 219, 223–27 (1928). For a review of Goddard’s work and an evaluation of his influence, see S. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man 158–74 (1981).Google Scholar
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  11. 11.
    For detailed model state laws on mental health and mental retardation considerations in the criminal justice system, see American Bar Association Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards (1984) (Hereinafter ABA Mental Health Standards). The ABA Mental Health Standards were developed by task forces that included legal scholars and experts in mental retardation and mental illness. The author served as the mental retardation expert on competence issues.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    In the mid-1800s, the Georgia Supreme Court suggested that the confessions of mentally retarded people ought to be exceptionally valuable since “experience teaches that, in point of fact, the cunning and crafty are much more likely to conceal and misrepresent the truth than those who are less gifted. It is the trite observation of all travelers that if you wish to learn the truth with respect to the health of a country, you must interrogate the children and servants about the matter.” Studstill v. State, 7 Ga. 2, 12 (1849).Google Scholar
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    Dr. Alan Stone has referred to competence to stand trial as “the most significant mental health inquiry pursued in the system of criminal law.” A. Stone, Mental Health and Law: A System in Transition 200 (1975). Competence issues affect many more individuals than does the insanity defense but are often overlooked.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Sieling v. Eyman 478 F. 2d 211, 214–15 (9th Cir. 1973) (mental illness); United States v. Masthers, 359 F. 2d 721, 726 n. 30 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (mental retardation).Google Scholar
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    ABA Mental Health Standards 7–6.1. “Mental disease or defect” is defined as “impairments of mind” or “mental retardation” that substantially affected the mental or emotional processes of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

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  • Ruth Luckasson

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