What Do We Owe Each Other?: An Essay on Law and Society
Los Angeles Review of Books
2 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 28, 2020
Lawyer and psychologist Susan Vinocour has written a widely noticed, engrossing, immensely saddening, and thought-provoking book, Nobody’s Child. The book covers many central topics at the intersection of law and society. These include the workings of the current insanity defense; our attitudes toward mentally ill defendants; our attitudes toward guilt and punishment; the operation of the criminal justice system generally, especially as it affects the poor and people of color; our society’s failures by our schools, hospitals, communities, and social service agencies to respond to people with major mental disorder and with severe social disadvantage; the work of practicing attorneys, judges, forensic psychologists, and social workers; a specific reform proposal for the insanity defense; and even more. This is an ambitious agenda and I can only address most of it superficially and with hurried treatment. Although I use the book as a vehicle for exploring many of these important issues and often write against the book’s claims, this is more an essay than a review.
Keywords: Review of Nobody’s Child by Susan Vinocour, insanity defense, attitudes toward mentally ill defendants; guilt & punishment; operation of criminal justice system for poor & people of color, failures by schools, hospitals, communities & social service agencies to help those with major mental disorders
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