chapter  14
4 Pages

The challenge

Today in the UK-and, very likely, in most European countries-forensic psychiatry (or its equivalent) and the forensic thrust within general psychiatry confuse questions of crime and illness and, even more importantly, allow racism to become intimately involved in this amalgam. A vicious circle is created whereby seemingly ‘medical’ solutions are offered for social ills and social issues get medicalised even more. Forensic psychiatry is developing as a political power in the way psychiatry itself once developed. It has already established a mystique of its own, a part of which is about its ability to diagnose dangerousness. In going about its business, forensic psychiatry naturally uses the tools that are closest to hand, namely, the traditional psychiatric diagnostic system, especially the diagnosis of schizophrenia-modern schizophrenia no doubt, but still a schizophrenia that carries the aura of inherited madness, degeneration and racial imagery (mainly of black people) that derive from its origins in nineteenth-century Europe. As racist stereotypes and myths about black people are incorporated into it and as the powers that control society locate in black people all that is seen as alien and disturbing, forensic psychiatry in conjunction with the criminal justice system functions as a means of control using medical language and pseudo-scientific arguments about illness, especially schizophrenia.