Master's Theses

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Mrs. Brooke Mann, M.S.

Abstract

Approximately 20% of incarcerated individuals in jails and 15% of those in state prisons have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, meaning that there are approximately 356,000 incarcerated persons with serious mental illness in jails and prisons alone (Torrey et al., 2014). Today, mental health stigma is widely prevalent amongst society and particularly there is a strong stigma associated with mental illness and criminality (Maeder & Mossière, 2015). Thus, when mental illness is present in criminal court cases, there is the potentiality of those stigmatic views impacting verdict outcomes accommodating for mental illness (e.g., Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity and Guilty but Mentally Ill). Moreover, society typically perceives verdicts associated with insanity/mental illness as an alternative for not wanting to take responsibility for one’s actions and as a “loop-hole” to get out of serving time (Hans & Slater, 1983). These misconceptions can generate biases and stereotypes in regard to the insanity defense and accused individuals diagnosed with mental illness. The present study aimed to address these biases and stereotypes by examining what factors impact mock-jurors’ attitudes toward the insanity defense and potentially elicit verdict outcomes.

Participants were recruited via the internet using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). A variety of scales assessing mental health stigma, insanity defense attitudes, and several self-constructed questionnaires/ vignettes designed by the researchers were employed in the survey. Participants were also asked to complete a demographic questionnaire assessing basic demographic information as well as previous juror and criminal history, and exposure to mental health. The findings from this study imply that several juror demographics, as well as other factors, do impact verdict outcomes, however, there was a lack of significance when assessing insanity defense attitudes. Future directions, implications, and limitations are discussed.

Comments

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code).

Rights

Copyright 2021 Haley Moon


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