A mentally disabled offender is an individual with psychological problems suspected of having committed a criminal offence. Mentally disabled offenders might exhibit chronic or acute mental illness, have personality or behavioral disorders, neurosis, psychosis or are alcohol and drug reliant. This is a special category of offenders because they may commit the crime unwillingly or unintentionally. In the judicial handling of these offenders, the judges must first endeavor to understand the underlying circumstances informing the misconduct before dispensing the final verdict.
During the pre-arrest, arrest, trial and conviction of offenders with mental disorders, the police and law enforcement authorities have to conduct tests and assessments to ascertain the mental condition of the defendant. In coming up with the verdict, the law enforcement and judicial officers need to ensure that they consider and protect the defendant’s needs for social care, health and legal needs. They can achieve this through conforming to the requirements of the 1983 Mental Health Act that specifies clear guidelines on how to handle mentally disabled offenders.
However, there are certain prerequisites that the law enforcement authorities need to consider before dispensing justice. If the likelihood of the offender repeating the misconduct is imminent, then the judicial authorities have the moral imperative to protect against repeat of the misconduct by condemning the offender behind bars. In addition, during the dispensation of justice, the prosecutors need to analyze the likelihood of harm caused by the mentally disordered individual to public safety. If the offender poses a serious threat to the well-being of the general populace, then the prosecutor can take proactive measures to assure public safety.
Social workers also have a stake in determining the outcomes of cases concerning offenders with perceived mental disorders. The prison healthcare policy also needs restructuring to guarantee that offenders with mental disabilities receive fair hearing and representation during the court proceedings.