03 August 2005

Bad in the Head

Today the Straits Times published an article about a repeat sex offender who appealed for a lower sentence. The Chief Justice increased the sentence instead. I think that CJ was annoyed because the man committed the offence on the very same day that he was released from prison.
Aug 3, 2005
Sentence upped for man seeking trade-off for caning
Molester's appeal fails; he had grabbed woman just after being freed from jail
By Selina Lum

ON THE very day he was released from jail, Iskandar Muhamad Nordin molested a woman near the gates of Queenstown Remand Prison.

Yesterday, the 18-year-old appealed to Chief Justice Yong Pung How to reduce his sentence of nine months' jail and three strokes of the cane.

Iskandar, who was not represented by a lawyer, said he did not mind spending a longer time in prison if the CJ did away with the caning.

CJ Yong did increase the jail term - to the maximum two years. But he also tripled the number of strokes to nine.
The article also mentioned somewhere that Iskandar has a low IQ of 58. He is educationally subnormal with mild intellectual disability. He also suffers from conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has been on daily medication.

One school of thought has it that all criminals are, by definition, insane. While this is a little extreme, it is true to say that it is quite common to find criminals having histories of various kinds of mental disabilities or psychiatric problems.

"I like you, Mr Wang. I really, really like you."

Mr Wang believes that one day, we will become more enlightened about how criminals (or some kinds of criminals, at least) should be treated. Throwing people like Iskandar into jail and caning them does not necessarily serve any good purpose. Iskandar's kind of behaviour - walking out of the prison gates and immediately squeezing a woman's breasts - is highly indicative of the mental illnesses known as conduct disorder and ADHD (these two illnesses often coexist).

Incarceration cannot cure these mental conditions. Neither can caning. One day, Iskandar will walk out from prison again. If he still hasn't been properly treated of ADHD, then in all likelihood he will almost immediately do something stupid and criminal again. He can't help it. It's the conduct disorder, coupled with the impulsivity that comes with ADHD.

Conduct disorder is a definite mental disease. Sometimes it runs in the genes. Sometimes it's caused by brain damage. In other cases, it is caused by traumatic life experiences in the early years, such as being physically or sexually abused. For technical reasons under the law, many mentally-ill people who commit crimes cannot actually rely on legal defences such as insanity or unsoundness of mind. So they still go to jail.

That's tragic. Because jail is the last place where people like Iskandar will get the professional help they need.

"Hey, maybe I'm not bad after all.
Just a little bit crazy."

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