Protecting the Public? Detection and Release of Mentally Disordered Offenders

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PROTECTING THE PUBLIC? DETECTION AND RELEASE OF MENTALLY DISORDERED OFFENDERS Boyd-Caine, T. (2010). Cullompton: Willan Publishing, pp.202 (hbk) £39.50 ISBN 978-1-84392-527-9

This book provides a focused approach to UK and Australian policy issues regarding mentally disordered offenders, with insights from practitioners and related professionals. It is a considered approach that allows the reader to become familiar with the everyday intricacies and challenges of working with mentally disordered offenders. The book is written in a comprehensive way to allow non-experts in the field to grasp the main ideas and concepts. The efforts to combine academic sources with policy inform knowledge about how processes should and actually do operate.

The book begins with an exploration of legislation and the way executive discretion informs the process. The distinction, for example, of the difference between judicial and political functions offers an explanation on policy variations and practices. The argument progresses from detainees to prisoners to patients, drawing from previous literature, which explores the way the law rules on the person. The use of examples from Australia and the UK add to the understanding of the process and help develop a comparative narrative between policy issues in different countries. Ultimately, this may be overly ambitious and possibly confounds understanding of the population at hand.

Then the focus switches to methodological issues relevant to data collection and the conceptualisation of theoretical ideas. As such, this chapter lays the foundations for exploration of the area at large. The difficulty, for example, of having a common term that refers to all mentally disordered offenders is confusing, as they are not a homogenous group and each of their conditions has different clinical foundations and requirements. The focus on policy analysis informs the methodological framework and transforms policy, legislation and other documents into data. These, along with the author's interviews, generate a qualitative narrative that puts the people working with mentally disordered offenders firmly in the centre of the analysis.

Further on in the book, attention is placed on the operations of a Mental Health Unit and the dual responsibilities of officials are explored. These are identified as executive discretion and maintenance of the system's reputation. This distinction allows the reader to understand administrative responsibilities between praxis and structure. Executive decisions, and relationships between contributing factions in the wider area of working with mentally disordered offenders, are also investigated. For instance, the relationship between the Home Office Mental Health Unit and the Mental Health Review Tribunal acts as a demonstration of cooperation (or lack of) between interested parties. …