Narratives of illness and offending: mentally disordered offenders’ views on their offending [2018]

Narratives have been used in both the sociology of health and illness and in criminology to examine how groups of people present themselves in moral terms. This article focuses on the narratives of offenders with mental health problems in England subject to section 37/41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to examine how they justified offending prior to admission. Participants presented illness in a variety of different ways indicating a range of moral positions towards offending. In line with previous research a first group used mental illness to excuse offending and saw themselves as achieving moral reform through treatment. A second group also used illness to excuse offending, but did so inconsistently, seeking to mitigate responsibility whilst distancing themselves from treatment obligations. A third group portrayed themselves as dishonourable both due to their category of offence and the type of illness experienced. A final group rejected both labels of illness and offending, seeking to portray themselves as consistently moral.

Jeremy Dixon
Sociology of Health & Illness, Volume 40, Issue 6, July 2018