Psychiatry, what it means to be incapable of understanding and wanting

Technically, it defines itself forensic psychiatric analysis. And it has the aim of evaluating whether and to what extent a subject is capable of adequately controlling his own actions. That is, if he is capable of understanding and wanting. This formula is often used when proceeding with a judgment, but it must be understood well. Also because it can have repercussions in terms of criminal justicewith reduction of the sentence.
Obviously the psychiatric specialist is the point of reference in this process. But we must not forget that a psychiatric pathology in itself does not represent a reason to define that a person is not capable of realizing what he is doing. Precisely whether or not he is capable of understanding and wanting.

Here is the opinion on the subject Enrico Zanalda, President of the Italian Society of Forensic Psychiatry on the occasion of a conference which saw the exchange of different knowledge. The scientific society, in particular, brings together experts who evaluate the medical-legal implications and forensic problems faced in the criminal and civil fields with subjects suffering from mental pathologies. These assessments serve to establish the mental condition of a person in relation to a particular crime and at a specific moment in the judicial process.

What does inability to understand and want mean and what does it entail

“When we say that a person is not capable of understanding and wanting, it means that he is not able to understand the nature and consequences of his own actions – Zanalda immediately specifies”. This can happen due to serious mental disorders that prevent one from distinguishing between good and evil or from controlling one's behavior adequately. If during a crime the person is not able to understand the illegality of his actions, the law may recognize a reduction of criminal responsibility. In any case, when a subject is judged to be partially or completely incapable of understanding and wanting, situations arise that need to be known better. In case of partial incapacity “the person involved can receive a reduction of the sentence by one third (according to article 89 of the Penal Code) – reports Zanalda. If instead it is judged totally incapable, can be acquitted (according to article 88 of the Penal Code). However, the person can still be considered dangerous to society and therefore subjected to security measuresa, such as hospitalization in Residences for Security Measures (REMS) or probation. In Italy there are around 8000 people who have one of these measures, of which around 670 are hospitalized within the REMS, while 90% are bound to local care pathways (probation) which 80% are carried out in residential psychiatric rehabilitation facilities (SRP)”.

What difficulties does following these people entail?

“One of the main critical issues is the waiting list for access to REMS, which are structures with a limited capacity compared to the old Judicial Psychiatric Hospitals (OPG), which have been abandoned for 10 years now – concludes the expert. They are regional health facilities whose nationwide bed capacity is deliberately less half the capacity that the old OPG had (approximately 1600 places). Furthermore, there is an excessive use of custodial measures by the judiciary and a inadequate management of patients with antisocial personality disorders, who occupy positions without benefiting from health rehabilitation programs. This creates a bottleneck that prevents other patients from receiving the care they need. To improve the situation, a greater collaboration between the health system and the judicial system, hoping for more intense planning conferences between magistrates, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists and other operators healthcare and penitentiary administration like the one in Milan on 24 May”.