Mental retardation is an impairment in intellectual functioning and personal ability to respond appropriately to environmental demands, influencing an individual’s tendency towards exhibiting pathological behavior. The New York Times article, published in 1912, portrays weak-minded people as a community that is highly vulnerable to criminal behavior and recruitment into criminal networks. Noting that there were approximately 300,000 weak-minded persons across the U.S. at the time, the article observes that such people are highly likely to become social outcasts because of their vulnerability to crime, alcohol abuse, and poverty. I agree with the article’s argument that a significant portion of children in reformatories lacks the mental capacity to discern the difference between right and wrong, or have extremely weak characters to resist inducement to commit crime and choose to do right (“Weak-minded fill Ranks of Criminals”, 2012). In my neighborhood, one child who suffered from Autism and did not undergo effective intervention to address his social, interactive, and communication deficiencies exhibited symptoms of social withdrawal and low self-esteem, and consequently became a convenient prey for drug-dealing and criminal groups during teenage. Another child with an obsessive-compulsive psychological disorder developed similar self-esteem problems after teasing by peers in school, influencing his proneness to juvenile delinquencyalthough his parents intervened and enrolled him in therapy before the problem worsened.
The article’s suggestion of drastic measures such as segregation of psychologically-challenged people, vigorous monitoring in school, and prevention of such people from becoming parents as strategies to curb crime is unjust and discriminatory(Barron, 2009). Considering the heavylosses and much suffering that crime occasioned in the society, Dr. Stoddard proposed radical policies to address the increase in crime that resulted from mentally retarded individuals’ vulnerability to crime. Arguing that such people had no ability for conscious decision-making concerning right or wrong, the article suggested that a solution involving permanent care in an environment where they would be happy, secure, and harmless was necessary (“Weak-minded fill Ranks of Criminals”, 1912).
I think that Stoddard’s suggestion of care for people with psychological disorders is prudent, but I disagree with the proposal of a government policy to segregate and prevent such people from becoming parents as a gradual but sustainable solution to the crime problem in the American society.Presenting the findings of studies that feeble-minded persons bred children with similar psychological challenges in 65% of surveyed cases, the article argues that children should undergo vigorous evaluations of psychological statusin schools to decide which of them to segregate and prevent from becoming parents (“Weak-minded fill Ranks of Criminals”, 1912). Since intellectual disorders are involuntary, the government’s enforcement of Dr. Stoddard’s proposalswould involve abuse of human rights. People’s characteristics, including psychological, social, and physical abilities, should not apply as basis for discrimination. In segregating people with psychological challenges and preventing them from having children, the government would be denying them their rights to freedom and free choice as human beings (Barron, 2009). A person’s intellectual or psychological disabilities do not undermine his character and status as a human being with rights to human freedom and free choice.
The publishing date for this article was 1912, when there was relatively little knowledge on psychological disorders. Nevertheless, discriminative and unjust treatment of people is wrong at any time. There are alternative and fair strategies to address the vulnerability of people with psychological disorders. These include early detection and application of effective therapy models to address the deficiencies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (Butler et al, 2006).
“Weak-minded fill Ranks of Criminals.” (1912, March 10). New York Times.
Barron, J. (2009, September 8). “State discriminated against mentally ill, Judge rules.” New York Times.
Butler, A., Chapman, J., Forman, E., & Beck, A. (2006). The Empirical status of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: a Review of Meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology Review 26: 17-31