The plea is a compromise between two beliefs common in American society: that people should pay for their crimes, but that mentally ill people, who are incapable of controlling their behavior or understanding why a behavior is unacceptable, should not be punished.
The insanity plea varies from state to state, with some states using guidelines that determine a defendant “guilty but mentally ill,” “of diminished capacity,” or “guilty but not criminally responsible.” Some states have abolished the insanity provision entirely.
Critics of the insanity defense claim that the defense is often abused; however, studies have shown that the vast majority of defendants who are acquitted under the insanity defense suffer from serious mental illness. Most often they are not released, but are placed in some type of mental health facility or treatment center until mental health professionals determine that the person is no longer dangerous.
Dr. Grace Graham, owner of Charis Counseling and Psychological Services in Plano, Texas, is an expert in mental health services, including forensic psychological evaluations. Dr. Graham holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Western Conservative Bible Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and received a Doctor of Clinical Psychology from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She completed her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral residency at the Minirth-Meier Clinic in Richardson, Texas.