Who's 'Dangerous'?

In the wake of last month's tragedy at Newtown, some now assert that the law should make it easier to hospitalize dangerous people against their will. Their reasoning is intuitively seductive: If Adam Lanza (the Newtown shooter) and James Holmes (the Colorado "Batman" shooter) had been identified and forcibly confined as "dangerous" before they reached the point of committing murder, many innocent lives would have been saved. Therefore we must restructure the legal standard for involuntary commitment so that dangerous people like Holmes and Lanza can be institutionalized until such time as they no longer pose a risk of harm to innocent others. The emotions which motivate this view are understandable. But the argument is not rationally defensible. The case for locking up the dangerous usually proceeds from three assumptions: (1) that any person who commits atrocities such as the Newtown or Colorado shootings must be mentally ill (and thus, a proper subject of psychiatric treatment);...(Read Full Article)

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