Justice, Mercy, and Schizophrenia
I've been here at the Public Defender's office for three weeks now, and I've seen some really fascinating issues daeling with our criminal justice system. One thing that has become very apparent to me is that mental illness is a huge issue in criminal justice, and there are a lot of difficult decisions to be made in the area.
Recently I was in the court house watching our trials and there were ack to back defendants suffering from pretty severe schizophrenia. One was violation of probation terms, and his illness obviously had a lot to do with it. He forgot appointments, missed classes, etc. The other had done something more serious, but again, the illness had a lot to do with it. Both got pretty harsh sentences and I found myself feeling really sorry for these guys, but at the same time realizing two things.
One-It probably wasn't safe for them or others to just put them back on the streets and Two-they really had violated the law and it didn't seem right just to let them off without and consequences (even though at times when I saw their illness that is what I was hoping would happen.)
It is a really hard problem to deal with, how do justice and mercy work together for people who really don't know exactly what they are doing? I was mostly thinkinng about it in a legal sense, but I guess that the same problem could exist in the spiritual sense. I don't think that there is an answer, but any thoughts?