Criminal Justice Policies Toward the Mentally Retarded Are Unjust and Waste Money

by Joan R. Petersilia

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This research brief describes work documented in "Justice for All? Offenders with Mental Retardation and the California Corrections System," The Prison Journal, v. 77, no. 4, 1997.

Excerpt: Persons with mental retardation are a small but increasing portion of the population under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. In most states, that system makes little or no allowance for the disabilities of such offenders, resulting in dispositions that are inequitably harsh and in all likelihood costlier to the public than need be the case. Those are the conclusions reached by Joan Petersilia in a recent review of the evidence bearing on this issue. Petersilia is a researcher in RAND's Criminal Justice Program and Professor of Criminology at the University of California, Irvine. This brief summarizes the basis for her conclusions.

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