The Complexities of Criminal Responsibility and Persons With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: How Can Therapeutic Jurisprudence Help? [2020]

This article examines issues regarding legal capacity and criminal responsibility relating to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). We examined the case of a 28-year-old male identified as having the mental age of an 8-year-old, accused of four counts of possessing child pornography in Ontario, Canada. If convicted, the offenses carried a minimum mandatory sentence of 1-year imprisonment. The defense attorney argued that since persons are not criminally responsible when they are chronologically less than 12 years old, the same ought to be extended to those with a mental age of less than 12. The Crown prosecutor asserted that the defense’s connection of disability to a lack of capacity reverts our conceptualization of persons with IDD back to a time when they were infantilized. Using therapeutic jurisprudence as a framework, we examined whether problem-solving courts (e.g., mental health court) could be used to address the needs of a person with IDD and offer a different understanding and potential solution to nonjudicial decision makers that satisfies the principles of both criminal responsibility and public safety.

Voula Marinos, Lisa Whittingham
American Behavioral Scientist, September 17, 2020