Sunday, May 25, 2014

Temporary Civil Committment of the "dangerous"

There is always a controversy when we try to balance civil rights against public safety.  One debate, currently going on in Colorado, involves the proper standard for temporary  civil commitment for evaluation.  What should the government have to prove to detain and evaluate those who may pose a threat to public safety? Many murders "telegraph" their intent via social media, conversations, etc. The Aurora theater mass-murderer James Holmes is a "poster boy" for those advocating relaxing the standard from the current "imminent danger to self or others" test used in Colorado and some states. A majority of states use less stringent standards involving "recent threats" and/or "substantial risk of physical harm to self or others."  Recent mass murder in CA will stimulate further debate.  How long should be have to wait to deal with people who are obviously deteriorating in a dangerous fashion?  What is our obligation to the "suspect?"   Would relaxing standards make a difference.  There is research that suggests it would.  According to the Denver Post (5/25/14 p. 10B): "Researchers at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley reported in 2011 that there is a strong association with lower homicide rates in states with broader commitment criteria and increased access to inpatient psychiatric care. After controlling for gun-control laws, poverty levels and other demographic factors, researcher Steven P. Segal concluded that better-performing mental health systems contributed to lower homicide rates."

Read more: Debate rages in Colorado over involuntary holds for mental illness - The Denver Post


  1. One again, the National Rifle Association has been scapegoated by the usual crowd for the murderous actions of an individual whose deteriorating mental health was no secret to the people around him. Rule # 1: If someone looks like a threat, sounds like a threat, and/or acts like a threat, they're a threat. Intervention is a civic duty whenever people suspect anyone of being a potential danger. IMO, mental aberrations should be treated like any other physiological illness. In other words, don't ignore someone's chest pain. Call for help.