I am back, and I know I’m a little late with my blog post. Forgive me I was away in South Africa and then very busy. But I am back, and with hopefully some interesting blog post ideas!
In August there have been three really interesting criminal cases that the media has been all over, and I want to talk about each. I am talking about Peter Sutcliffe’s (the Yorkshire Ripper) transfer from psychiatric hospital to prison; Brendan Dassey’s overturned conviction and Brock Turner’s release from prison. I think each needs to be spoken of for different reasons, and while each case is controversial, I also think each case puts into question our faith in the justice system.
Let’s start with the Yorkshire Ripper. Peter Sutcliffe has been moved to prison after being held for thirty-two years in Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital. Sutcliffe committed 13 murders and 7 attempted murders between 1976 and 1981. Initially Sutcliffe was sentenced to 20 life terms in prison, but was moved to Broadmoor after being declared a paranoid schizophrenic.
He has been transferred, after a mental health tribunal ruled him sane enough to be moved back to jail. Furthermore, this transfer will save the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds. As someone who would like to work in a secure hospital (such as Broadmoor), I have to have faith in the system of mental health tribunals – but I am not sure how much faith I have in the prison system.
A lot of people will think that Sutcliffe has had it easy so far, and that a psychiatric hospital is a ‘cosy life’. Many reports have commented about how Sutcliffe had access to a Freeview television and DVD’s in his room. A victim’s son commented that Broadmoor patient’s ‘enjoy more freedom’ than prisoners. Others still question whether Sutcliffe is in fact mentally disordered.
I have mixed feelings about this case. I certainly don’t think that prison is worse than a psychiatric hospital, I think they are just different. I think that if Sutcliffe faked his schizophrenia then he is a lot more stupid than he appears. In fact, it’s a lot harder in psychiatric hospitals than people first imagine. In Jon Ronson’s book ‘The Psychopath Test’, he meets a man who faked a psychiatric disorder in order to avoid prison. Ronson goes on to discover that this man has been kept within psychiatric hospital because he is a pathological liar and is, according to the psychiatrists and psychologists, a psychopath. The book makes you question whether this man actually is a psychopath or not, whether he would have had an easier time in prison and makes you question your own preconceptions about the ‘cosy life’ in psychiatric facilities.
I can’t help thinking of this case when it comes to Sutcliffe. Although it has been said that Sutcliffe will be monitored for changes in his mental health in prison, you could argue that professionals in prison are not as vigilant as those in a psychiatric hospital. I would also argue that prison is less safe for Sutcliffe, both mentally and physically, than a psychiatric hospital.
Many people would say ‘Who cares?!’ Sutcliffe did mutilate and murder 13 women. Nevertheless, this does not remove our moral responsibility to provide a safe place for him to be imprisoned and equally he should be given enough mental support as he needs. I would question whether prison is the correct environment for Sutcliffe, and in fact, many other mentally disordered prisoners.
Next I want to talk about Brendan Dassey. I think many people would agree with me that Brendan Dassey has experienced a grave miscarriage of justice, just as his uncle, Steven Avery, did in 1985. But I am not here to talk about Avery, and I can’t comment on whether I believe he is innocent. I think both sides of the argument are sketchy.
But. And this is a huge but (hehe huge butt!), Brendan Dassey, in my opinion, has been held unfairly in prison for the last ten years. If you have watched Making a Murderer, you’ll know what I am talking about. If you haven’t watch it! Please do, it will profoundly alter how you think about justice and the law.
The scene that comes to mind is Brendan Dassey’s confession. Brendan Dassey is coerced into confessing to the murder of Teresa Halbach. The ‘Reid technique’ of interrogation is used throughout America, which has been shown to lead to an increased amount of false confessions. It relies on trickery and deceit of the suspect, and interrogators are told to overcome objections of innocence. Interrogation places a huge amount of stress onto the suspect. As you can imagine this can result in false confessions. Shockingly, it’s thought that 49-61% of confessions are false. Many false confessions are due to suspects succumbing to police pressure.
The most shocking part of Dassey’s interview is that he is fed the most important piece of information about Teresa’s death. The interviewer asks ‘Who shot her in the head?’. Until this point, this information was not given. Subsequently any further confessions can’t be corroborated against the evidence, and therefore we cannot prove that they are true.
Ultimately, Dassey’s interview suggests that he was fed information and manipulated into giving a false confession. Furthermore, he wasn’t able to comprehend or understand the seriousness of the situation. I for one, really hope that Brendan is released from prison and given an opportunity for a normal life.
My last case I want to speak of is Brock Turner. Brock Turner has been a major target for the media over the last week, after being released from jail on good behaviour after serving three months out of a six-month sentence.
Firstly, let’s just all agree and move on that the system is a little fucked up. Brock Turner – for whatever he might have been a few years ago – is now just a rapist.
Honestly, it is ridiculous that rapists should serve a prison sentence of three months. But it is not surprising, it is the norm. Frankly it is appalling, and it is something we need to change. There is not much more I can say on the subject, apart from the fact that the justice system has failed us.
Here are some shocking statistics:
Only 15% of those who experience sexual violence report it to the police.
A third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped.
Only 5.7% reported rape cases end in a conviction.
To finish up, I just want to say that I think we would all love to believe that the justice system is fair. But I don’t think that is completely true. For Brendan Dassey it wasn’t fair. For the victims of sexual assault and rape, it isn’t fair. For individuals who live in fear about walking home alone at night, it isn’t fair. For mentally ill individuals that aren’t given the correct support in prison, it isn’t fair. For Stephen Avery, it wasn’t fair. For those with mental illness or learning difficulties, it isn’t fair. And for anyone who is wrongly accused of committing a crime, it isn’t fair.
Love Em x
If you are interested in miscarriages of justice, look at the innocence project:
Here are some shocking rape/sexual assault statistics: