Diminished Capacity – Temporary Insanity, Coercive Control and Families’ Credibility in the Process
Addictions are the ground cover for a LOT of problematic behaviour in families – Coercive Control, Battered Spouse, GBV and familial dynamic issues ie incest. Yet families are still considered credible sources in court evaluations. Which strikes me as odd, when you think about how many cases police, social workers and judges see before them where the family are disturbed, violent, and out of control.
Addictions are often an inter-generational issue in families. It’s partly about social determinants such as poverty and lack of education. But it’s also about self-medicating your moods and coping with stress. And these are familial rearing issues. It’s pretty rare when one member in isolation uses some substance to excess and gets in trouble with the law.
Addictions are about more than how many drinks you had today, or whether you use/overuse prescriptions or street drugs. Which is why they’re being seen as more of a medical problem than a legal one now.
So how is it tolerable for the court systems to allow a family to scapegoat one member for the family’s issues? And how do you not see addictions as a form of mental defect? Or at least coercive control?
Laws that use adult majority to ‘protect’ people from the influence of addictive substances are unrealistic when their first source of the substances is often in their childhood home. And how do you claim that using substances is wrong when society is the primary model of overuse and self-medication in media and govt control of the supply chain? (ie Canada -LCBOs and now cannabis supply stores/pharmacies)?
In that context, how do you scapegoat one member? And how do you expect them to separate themselves from the substance and everyone who models and/or uses them realistically? When this is the social model, how do you claim one participant in the group is the wrong’un? To the point where in some countries they could be put to death for their actions? The claim is that this person has a disease, (ie addiction model), they are seen as incorrigible and/or untreatable to the point where prolonged separation or death are the better option for society. Can they recover? Can they be trusted as a member of society again?
If the standard of sanity in Canada (for eg,) is to determine whether someone is capable of good judgement, can control themselves, and has a sound mind, then how could you hold an addict accountable for their actions? When during their ‘day’ they are at some state of high, DTs or jonesing? How functional they are being more determined by how many enablers they have in their life, rather than how intelligent they are mentally or emotionally. In a family court, they would lose their kids as addicts because they aren’t considered to be responsible. Yet in a criminal court, they’re sane enough they would face the worst possible consequences (ie death penalty).
If you believe in defences such as coercive control or battered spouse, then shouldn’t you also believe that having addictions and all the variance of their abilities, (even if they do ‘maintain’ some semblance of awareness to their environment and the people in it, even if they do complete their daily tasks) would have a profound effect on their life, decision-making and relationships?
Which should reduce their culpability for their actions. And make addictions a grounds of defence against most crimes. Addictions have a self-perpetuating pattern of people they have to deal with to get their substance, activities they have to engage in to obtain the substance, and money they have to earn to at least ‘maintain’ their calm to high scale.
Yet these aren’t the standards of thought when it comes to criminal charges. The person is seen as able to function and held liable for their actions. No matter how fundamentally lacking in function their addiction makes them. And even if they don’t remember the crime, and their next days are spent in some state of DTs and/or biological shock, they are considered able to understand and fully participate in the trial and advise their counsel.
So shouldn’t there be a separation between those who went out one night and had a few drinks or tried a joint and those who are caught up in a cycle of addictions?
But as long as the govt profits from the sale and taxation of the very substances these people are chained to, they can’t claim that an addict has no choice or isn’t responsible for their own actions, can they?
How do you punish someone who was unaware of their actions? Who had no ‘intent’ to commit a crime or to harm someone? Yet in the medical model of addictions, that is the very thing that is necessary to achieve recognition. Holding the addict accountable, making them face consequences.
….. my disclosure
Besides the course work on this issue of forensics and criminal responsibility, I have a personal history of addictions. My family and I have this struggle. And we have prolonged and outside my generation (3-4) issues with alcohol and using it to excess.
In that context, my oldest brother has been to prison and has a prolonged record of violence, selling drugs, DWIs and issues that were part of the profile. He isn’t the only one, but he is the lens by which our family needs to look at itself. When I chose to quit drinking and get sober, I also had to cut ties with them to stay sober. Because they don’t understand that it’s not just my brother’s issue, but a dynamic one. But how do I explain that to them when they’re scapegoating him, and it’s all tolerated by society? I can’t, so I left.