The article "The Insanity Defense and the Unabomber Trial" by Barbara Sarason of the University of Washington touches on a number of important questions for all members of our society to consider. The insanity defense is used in only approximately one percent of felony cases and succeeds only a rare amount of the time, yet on television and in courtroom fiction it is depicted as being a common technique used by cunning defense lawyers. Shows like "Law and Order" are more responsible for shaping the public's opinion about legal dilemmas such as the insanity defense than factual court cases. This may skew public opinion, but in many ways the same questions are to be asked.
Many people, such as the one of the victims of the Unibomber's actions, believe that regardless of one's state of mind, one should be judged and punished based on the actions taken. Even a person who is "mentally ill" should be punished the same as everyone else in society who has raped, killed, or otherwise taken an illegal path in life.
The insanity plea, in many people's opinions, is just a trick to try to keep people from being responsible for their own actions. It might be seen as a similar social problem that the insanity plea exists as people who do stupid things, like keep a cup of hot coffee between their legs while driving and wind up spilling it, can sue someone else for their own actions to displace their own blame.
However, people who do not think that the insanity defense should be admitted are perhaps uninformed or misinformed on a number of important aspects of this dilemma. For example, most people do not realize the conditions of prisons. The way the prison sytem is set up, prisoners are given no chance...