Public Perception of Mentally Disordered, Violent Offenders

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Albracht, Madison
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The Department of Sociology is co-directed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It offers a major in Sociology (giving a liberal-arts education, or a sociological background for work in social-services, law, theology, academia, the government, etc); as well as a major in Public Service and Administration in Agriculture (preparing for work with agricultural agencies or agriculture and natural-resources public services). It also offers the interdepartmental major in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The Department of Sociology was formed in 1991 from the division of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

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1991 - present

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This study examines college students views on the blameworthiness, or culpability, of mentally disordered, violent offenders. The question being asked in this research is “Would a participant with an overall higher amount of experience with psychology and law be more likely to find a mentally disordered, violent offender Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity?”. To measure a participants experience in psychology, law, and mental illness, I created a voluntary response survey that asked a series of demographic questions on each participant’s level of experience with psychology, law, and mental disorders. These demographic questions were followed by a fact pattern derived from a case that went to trial a few years ago in Eldridge, Iowa. After reading the pattern, participants were asked to answer three questions asked for Iowan jury members regarding whether they believe the defendant to have been legally culpable for the act committed. To gather data on this study, I created a Qualtrics survey that was distributed to a voluntary response sample of students attending Iowa State University via Listserv. After a month of the survey being accessible to students via email, my sample included 655 responses from undergraduate and graduate students. I used IBM SPSS Statistics Software to analyze the results. The findings of this study were perplexing. Overall, a participant with a higher score is more likely to find the defendant Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.