Thursday, January 12, 2006

Insanity Defense: A True Story

[Lori] Farmer says she knows ... the voices weren't real. God would never urge her to hurt someone -- least of all her 4-year-old son, who loved Batman and used to run around in a cape that his grandma made from an old skirt. Zane was buried in his pretend cape 10 years ago. Farmer killed him.

When you read news reports of Andrea Yates’ new trial, keep Lori Farmer in mind. Farmer was found not guilty by reason of insanity and is now living in a group home, after years of treatment in a secure psychiatric facility. Her story is a rare look at the insanity defense from the perspective of the person charged with a crime.

And if the emotions of her story don’t get you, think about this.

People who are treated at places such as Western State Hospital are much less likely to commit another crime than those who land in prison, according to Bruce Gage, supervising psychiatrist for the hospital's Center for Forensic Services. He said most people released from prison will break the law within three years, while the recidivism rate for people found insane and treated at a specialized psychiatric program is less than 5 percent.

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