Date of Award

Summer 6-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Cynthia Calkins

Second Reader

Elizabeth Jeglic

Third Advisor

Gabrielle Salfati

Abstract

Although mental illness is common in the sex offender population, it has never been examined how evidence of such may influence societal perception. In comparison to the non-sex offender population, it was hypothesized that participants would consider mental illness less mitigating for sex offenders, would be less likely to support the mental health treatment of sex offenders while incarcerated, and would consider certain mental illnesses (schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders) as particularly aggravating for this group of offenders. Respondents were asked to read a short vignette and then respond to a series of questions about culpability, sentencing decisions, and mental health treatment. Results from this study suggest that the public is less likely to consider mental illness as a mitigating factor in the sex offender population, in turn believing they should receive harsher prison sentences and are less deserving of alternatives to incarceration in comparison to non-sex offenders with identical symptomatology. However, mental illnesses considered especially dangerous were not particularly aggravating in the sex offender population. Future directions may examine how these findings differ based on various sex offenses.

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