Bear in mind this is being written by someone who has had plenty of friends who have been thought of as crazy. It is therefore not an easy position for me to take. It is in fact very difficult, and is why I detail the very limited circumstances under which this idea could be implemented.
In a discussion elsewhere on Facebook (on the subject of the recent shootings) I came around to realizing that we need to bring back the Insane Asylum – a place to send people who, though they have committed no crime, present a threat to everyone around them. Some people are born sociopathic, unable to feel sympathy, compassion or empathy, and who therefore think nothing of using threats of murder and mayhem to manipulate even their own family. Not a simple outburst – a pathology that fills people around them with terror.
The realization that we need to make Insane Asylums for such people was prompted by an essay called “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” (which is not in fact written by Adam Lanza’s mother) in which a parent makes clear that in between her son’s brief visits to psychiatric facilities he’d return to threatening to murder everyone. (Brief, because there is no free care in this country). She was only able to get him locked up for a day or two at a time – only when she felt sure her life was in imminent risk of being ended by her son (more imminent than the times when she felt less sure). Her essay made clear that even longer stays would not solve the problem. At some point, she will misjudge how imminent the threat is, and then there will be no more essays from her.
What are we to do, when a person is a persistent threat but has not committed a crime yet? What we need is some sort of psychiatric place where people go and are never let out, before they have acted on their threats. Something like a prison – in that the staff are in perpetual danger – but not a prison. And thats when I came around to realizing that we used to have something that was exactly that.
Difficult to remember, because Insane Asylums been gone for awhile. One might surmise that at some point in history everyone with pathological mental illnesses suddenly got better. Unfortunately, that is not so.
Insane Asylums vanished while the human race stayed the same.
People are as likely to be born sociopathic as before, and no cures have been found. So we can either continue to allow such people to live freely and occasionally act on their impulses, as we have for the past few decades, or we can admit that the human race has a problem that requires some defective parts to be locked up forever.
If we make sure that those who are being sent away are a real, imminent danger to lives, – via sworn testimony from a range of people who have contact with the person in question – then we can alleviate a risk that we have seen too many times is a real and present danger.
Abbreviated version of the above post:
We need to recognize that while Insane Asylums have vanished, the human race remains the same – people are just as likely to be born as sociopaths as before. We must remove the stigma from the concept of Insane Asylums, and accept that parts of our human race are defective and, with no cure in the offing, are best kept locked up forever.
If there was a way to bestow on people with no empathy the ability to feel empathy, this suggestion would never be made. But we must face the reality of the threat, and respond with an aim of providing safety for those whom they threaten, and at least a life free of a downward spiral for those who were born as sociopaths.