Fleming, M., Simpson, M., & Presecan, N. (2013). The Correlation Between PTSD and Criminogenic Behaviors In Incarcerated Veterans. Corrections Forum, 22(6), 37-40.
The article discusses the research study on the characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in incarcerated veterans. It highlights the problems associated with the link between PTSD and criminal behaviors, the prevalence of incarcerated veterans, and the link of PTSD with traumatic brain injury. It also explains the treatment options for PTSD.
Hafemeister, Thomas L. and Stockey, Nicole A., Last Stand? The Criminal Responsibility of War Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (March 4, 2010). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 85, No. 1, p. 87, 2010; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2009-06.
Melissa Hamilton, Reinvigorating Actus Reus: The Case for Involuntary Actions by Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 16 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 340 (2011).
In common law, criminal culpability rests on two basic foundations of criminal intent, or mens rea, and a voluntary act, which comprises the actus reus. While much of the litigation in criminal cases concerns assigning the appropriate mens rea concept to the particular defendant’s mental state, relatively little debate focuses on the element of actus reus. Indeed, case law and commentators generally have devoted scant attention to fleshing out the voluntary act concept despite the historical consensus of both utilitarians and retributivists that one should not be considered morally or legally culpable for his or her involuntary actions. This paper conceptualizes an overall need to reinvigorate the actus reus requirement as a fundamental principal of criminal culpability. It does so by employing a contemporary problem facing the criminal justice system of combat veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who commit acts of unlawful violence, including homicide, either in reflexive actions or during dissociative states triggered by re-experiencing combat-related stresses. While the veterans are often convicted of criminal offenses, studies on PTSD substantively support an argument that such violence may actually be conceptualized as automatism and, therefore, should not qualify as voluntary acts justifying criminal culpability. For example, mental health professionals describe PTSD as a neuropsychiatric disorder that involves hypervigilance, and hyperreactivity. Modern combat training is a likely correlate with its emphasis on muscle memory and reflexive responsiveness in the use of lethal weapons, which are adaptive, survival behaviors in the field of battle. The relationship to automatism is also evident in that PTSD is not merely a cognitive disorder as studies have shown PTSD-related alterations to brain structure and function and neurophysiological performance. Thus, this contemporary problem of PTSD in veterans due to wartime service provides a fresh perspective on which to reconsider the importance of the voluntary act requirement of criminal law.
Two hundred and forty-one Vietnam combat veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) completed measures of PTSD symptom severity, combat exposure, depression, hostility, interpersonal violence, substance abuse, and arrest history. The majority of veterans with PTSD (63%) reported being arrested at least once after returning from Vietnam. Logistic regression analyses indicated that PTSD severity was positively correlated with arrest history even when other variables associated with criminal behavior were taken into account. Recommendations for evaluation and treatment of individuals with PTSD who are at risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system are discussed.
lbogen, E. B., Johnson, S. C., Newton, V. M., Straits-Troster, K., Vasterling, J. J., Wagner, H., & Beckham, J. C. (2012). Criminal justice involvement, trauma, and negative affect in Iraq and Afghanistan war era veterans. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 80(6), 1097-1102. doi:10.1037/a0029967
Although criminal behavior in veterans has been cited as a growing problem, little is known about why some veterans are at increased risk for arrest. Theories of criminal behavior postulate that people who have been exposed to stressful environments or traumatic events and who report negative affect such as anger and irritability are at increased risk of antisocial conduct. Method: We hypothesized veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) who report anger/irritability would show higher rates of criminal arrests. To test this, we examined data in a national survey of N = 1,388 Iraq and Afghanistan war era veterans. Results: We found that 9% of respondents reported arrests since returning home from military service. Most arrests were associated with nonviolent criminal behavior resulting in incarceration for less than 2 weeks. Unadjusted bivariate analyses revealed that veterans with probable PTSD or TBI who reported anger/irritability were more likely to be arrested than were other veterans. In multivariate analyses, arrests were found to be significantly related to younger age, male gender, having witnessed family violence, prior history of arrest, alcohol/drug misuse, and PTSD with high anger/irritability but were not significantly related to combat exposure or TBI. Conclusions: Findings show that a subset of veterans with PTSD and negative affect may be at increased risk of criminal arrest. Because arrests were more strongly linked to substance abuse and criminal history, clinicians should also consider non-PTSD factors when evaluating and treating veterans with criminal justice involvement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)
Greenberg, G., & Rosenheck, R. (2009). Mental health and other risk factors for jail incarceration among male veterans. The Psychiatric Quarterly, 80(1), 41-53. doi:10.1007/s11126-009-9092-8
Data derived from the 2002 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails and the 2000 National Survey of Veterans show that having mental health problems in addition to such sociodemographic characteristics as being a member of a minority group, not being married, having less education, and being younger are risk factors for incarceration among veterans, as they are for the general population. As in previous studies veterans who served during the Vietnam Era and to an even greater extent, those who served in the early years of the All Volunteer Force were at greater risk of incarceration than veterans from the most recent period of the AVF, after controlling for age and other factors
More than 1.5 million Americans have participated in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past seven years. Some of these veterans have subsequently committed capital crimes and found themselves in our nation’s criminal justice system. This Essay argues that combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury at the time of their offenses should not be subject to the death penalty. Offering mitigating evidence regarding military training, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury presents one means that combat veterans may use to argue for their lives during the sentencing phase of their trials. Alternatively, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons offer a framework for establishing a legislatively or judicially created categorical exclusion for these offenders, exempting them from the death penalty as a matter of law. By understanding how combat service and service-related injuries affect the personal culpability of these offenders, the legal system can avoid the consequences of sentencing to death America's mentally wounded warriors, ensuring that only the worst offenders are subject to the ultimate punishment.
Wilson, J. P., & Zigelbaum, S. D. (1983). The Vietnam Veteran on Trial: The Relation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Criminal Behavior. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 1(3), 69-83.
The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize the relationship of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Vietnam veterans to criminal behavior. A conceptual framework is discussed which proposes that the disposition to criminal behavior is determined by whether or not the veteran enters into the survivor mode of functioning as a behavioral defense mechanism against the disorder. It is hypothesized that there exists a relationship between the severity of PTSD and the tendency to commit illegal acts. The Vietnam Era Stress Inventory (Wilson and Krauss, 1980) was used to assess PTSD among a volunteer national sample of Vietnam combat veterans (N = 114) participating in the Veterans Administration's counseling program known as Operation Outreach. The results strongly supported the hypothesis and indicated that combat role variables, exposure to stressors in Vietnam and the severity of PTSD were significantly correlated with criminal acts. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Department of the Army: Policy Guidance on the Assessment and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Berger, O., McNiel, D., & Binder, R. (2012). PTSD as a criminal defense: a review of case law. The Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychiatry And The Law, 40(4), 509-521.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been offered as a basis for criminal defenses, including insanity, unconsciousness, self-defense, diminished capacity, and sentencing mitigation. Examination of case law (e.g., appellate decisions) involving PTSD reveals that when offered as a criminal defense, PTSD has received mixed treatment in the judicial system. Courts have often recognized testimony about PTSD as scientifically reliable. In addition, PTSD has been recognized by appellate courts in U.S. jurisdictions as a valid basis for insanity, unconsciousness, and self-defense. However, the courts have not always found the presentation of PTSD testimony to be relevant, admissible, or compelling in such cases, particularly when expert testimony failed to show how PTSD met the standard for the given defense. In cases that did not meet the standard for one of the complete defenses, PTSD has been presented as a partial defense or mitigating circumstance, again with mixed success.