ABSTRACT

We have argued that the mentally disordered offender, as an area of study, emerged following the convergence of a number of factors. These factors included the death of deviance caused by a loss of faith in difference and rationality, the move to deinstitutionalisation and the expansion of the community care programme, and the growth in interim and medium secure units. This academic focus on the criminal allowed the medical 'gaze' to focus on this new territory of psychiatric colonisation. At this inchoate stage of development the contemporary pioneers staked a claim for the efficacy of psychiatric principles to control and govern the aberrancy of criminal conduct. A claim made to satisfy the will to professional power through the acquisition of the criminal. Laid bare this psychiatric authority must produce the successes of its application and hide its failures, and must convince its scrutineers of its scientificity. However, the project has sailed into 'choppy waters' with the growing concerns of poor risk assessments and management strategies, and the extent of false positives and negatives. Those mentally disordered offenders considered safe and released but who go on to re-offend cause alarm and even panic among the public, fuelled and fanned by media sensationalism, and those considered dangerous and detained in hospital but who are in fact safe is a morally outrageous abuse of psychiatric detention.