27 April 2005

We're just here to help.

To an outsider, a "problem-solving court" might not look very different from a traditional one. These courts exist, for the most part, in regular courthouses, and there are judges in robes and court officers in uniform.

But there are significant differences. The judges often have an unusual amount of information about the people who appear before them. These people, who are often called clients, rather than defendants, can talk directly to the judges, rather than communicating through lawyers.

And the judges monitor these defendants for months, even years, using a system of rewards and punishments, which can include jail time. Judges also receive training in their court's specialty and may have a psychologist on the staff.

New York Times
In Problem-Solving Court, Judges Turn Therapist
April 26, 2005

There are two images, then, of discipline. At one extreme, the discipline-blockade, the enclosed institution, established on the edges of society, turned inwards towards negative functions: arresting evil, breaking communications, suspending time. At the other extreme, with panopticism, is the discipline-mechanism: a functional mechanism that must improve the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective, a design of subtle coercion for a society to come. The movement from one project to the other, from a schema of exceptional discipline to one of a generalized surveillance, rests on a historical transformation: the gradual extension of the mechanisms of discipline throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their spread throughout the whole social body, the formation of what might be called in general the disciplinary society.

Michel Foucault
Discipline and Punish


This article refers to the findings of a study into the way that nursing staff working in high security forensic settings construct accounts of offending behaviour, most notably that the concept of ‘evil’ retains usage alongside clinical language. The results have previously been reported in the professional literature (Richman, Mercer & Mason 1999; Mercer, Mason & Richman 1999), and here some more general reflections are offered about the implications of ‘medicalised deviance’ (Conrad & Schneider 1980) for mental health nursing practice and research. Attention is focused on the dominance of psychiatric language in a borderline territory where medicine, morality and the law compete for ownership of the disordered offender. Ultimately, though, it raises concerns about the way that research is conducted, funded and presented. In an era of deference to the ‘gold standard’ of the randomised-controlled trial, the gospel of the ‘systematic review’ and the grail of evidence-based practice it urges us to re-examine the neutrality and benevolence of ‘science’.

Nurse2Nurse magazine
‘Speak no Evil’ Research in a Forensic
Sep 1, 2002

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