Research shows criminally insane much safer than stereotypes suggest


The way society views mental illness is changing. Still, more work is needed and doctors at the Medical College of Georgia hope their research helps.

Forensic Psychologist Dr. Michael Vitacco studied people who plead “not guilty by reason of insanity” to the crimes they committed. He looked at how these individuals respond when they re-enter society. Dr. Vitacco says the results prove this group of people is much safer than stereotypes suggest.

“When you successfully treat the mental illness, their risk of violence and recidivism goes way down,” says Dr. Vitacco. “Part of the reason they do well in the community is once they return to the community, they’re mandated to continue that treatment. They’re followed and if they don’t continue their treatment they can return to the hospital. With those safeguards in place, these individuals tend to do extremely well back in the community.”

Dr. Vitacco says, conditional release programs have helped our justice system treat people with mental illness.

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