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Author Of The Month: Robert Schug

Published: August 8, 2016

Mental Illness and Crime

Robert Schug, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology, School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Emergency Management

The 592-page “Mental Illness and Crime” by Schug and Arizona State University’s Hank Fradella appeared in 2014 from Sage Publications. Mental Illness and Crime seeks to synthesize and critically examine what is currently known about the relationship between mental illness and individual psychiatric disorders with particular regard to criminal, violent and other forms of antisocial behavior. Crime integrates scholarship from psychology, psychiatry, clinical neuroscience, criminology and law when presenting explanations for mental illness–related criminal and violent behaviors. Moreover, the book provides the reader with a diagnostic understanding of mental disorders across various classification systems. In addition, Schug and Fradella profile what is known about the treatment and social implications of this body of research, including its practical applications within the criminal justice system. The idea linking mental illness and crime has evolved since its origins in the 19th century. “There are three ironies related to the link between mental illness and crime,” Schug claims. “The first irony is that researchers are hesitant to get involved in the topic. There already is a stigma associated with mental illness. Why should more of a stigma be shoveled onto the topic? Irony number two is that what researchers reject is embraced by the general public. In fact, they often believe everyone with a mental illness is a violent killer. The third irony is that most people with mental illness are not violent as a rule. Understanding the true relationship between mental illness and crime will take the stigma off the people with mental illness who are not violent. It will also help us help the ones who are… it’s a win-win.” The link between crime and mental illness is complex. “It is human to want to boil down a question to its simplest elements,” Schug said. “There are two ways it hurts people not to be aware. First, if we pretend the relationship between mental illness and crime doesn’t exist, that relationship will continue to be perpetuated. But if we go the other way and we assume that everyone who commits crime is mentally ill or that everyone with a mental illness is going to be a killer, it steers us away from reality. Hopefully, this book will help readers to understand the link’s complexity. It’s a gray area with lots of nuances. It is understandable but it will take time.” Mental Illness and Crime offers one chapter apiece on each of the major classes of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 and their relationship in the literature to crime and violence. “There is a lengthy chapter

Author of the Month-Robert Schug

on schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, one on personality disorders—including psychopathy—and one on sexual disorders,” he said. “Mood, anxiety and substance use disorders are other topics. I am particularly excited about the one on disorders of childhood and adolescence which delves deeply into the relationship between autistic disorders and crime. This is highly relevant in relation to some of the recent mass shooting cases we have seen in the media.” He went on to say “I wanted to take a look at all of the DSM-5 disorders at the same time. When we did, we saw higher rates of mental disorders in jails and prisons than in the general population, and higher rates of crime and violence among the mentally ill compared to folks without mental illness. I am not saying everyone with a mental disorder is a criminal—nothing could be further from the truth. But the text does point to a relationship in need of exploration and clarification.” Schug earned his B.A. in psychology and his M.S. in forensic psychology from Cal State Los Angeles while acquiring an M.A. in psychology from USC. He earned his Ph.D. from USC in psychology (clinical neurosciences) in 2009 before joining the university in 2010. He has since completed his doctoral training in clinical psychology with an emphasis in forensics.