Recently, a man who committed attempted homicide was sentenced to imprisonment in Pennsylvania. It was strange that he was severely mentally ill when the offense occurred.
Many developed countries have established a special legislation to deal with mentally disordered offenders. People who committed a serious harm due to their psychiatric status are to be hospitalized involuntarily to treat their clinical symptoms so that they would have no more incorrect belief or aggression that can cause offense. This treatment procedure is believed to reduce the future risk of recidivism.
Also in Pennsylvania, a person found guilty but mentally ill shall be provided treatment, according to state law. However, this legislation is adaptable only being consistent with available resources.
In the issued case, there was no psychiatric hospital being able to accept the offender. Therefore, the Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, admitting the lack of proper facilities, had to make an imprisonment sentence. The defendant will serve a mandatory minimum term of ten years, based on the state law.
Post-Gazette: Treatment unavailable for man found guilty but mentally ill
This verdict has two major problems. First, providing appropriate treatment for mentally disordered offenders is a duty of the state, or at least public responsibility, because no other individuals can commit this matter. The fact that medical care was not provided in spite of the state law suggests the laziness of state government.
Second, prison is not an alternative to hospital. There are differences between two facilities even if some people with similar characteristics are detained. The correctional power of prison against mentally disordered offenders is limited. This man is likely to re-offend after the release if he is not properly treated. And it will cause a great loss for the community.
In Japan, a similar discussion occurred in the initial term of enforcement of the Medical Treatment and Supervision Act. There were scarce inpatient facilities and specialists worried about the shortage of the forensic beds. Several months after the enforcement, this worry gradually vanished along the opening of new forensic wards. The Japanese government, fortunately, avoided the risk not to adhere the law.
The US is one of the developed countries that have high crime rate. Therefore, it equips strict and sophisticated legislation for offenders. But it seems there is considerable variety in the quality of care for mentally disordered offenders. I hope the situation will be improved soon.