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Article

Медикализация преступности в раннесоветской судебной психиатрии

Погорелов М. А.

The paper considers the emergence of early Soviet forensic psychiatry, which was established as an academic discipline and clinical practice in the 1920s and 1930s.  Basing on the materials of professional congresses, scientific works, legal and official records, the research examines, how psychiatrists sought to define their tasks and professional jurisdiction. Bolsheviks gave professionals an opportunity to reform forensic psychiatric expertise and their status in criminal procedure. More importantly, the relative intellectual freedom and ambiguity of early Soviet criminal codes allowed them to embody scientific understanding of criminal and criminality in psychiatric practice and theory. A group of Soviet psychiatrists (including E. Krasnushkin and N. Brukhansky) shared a view, which linked antisocial behavior of criminals with their pathological predisposition. The broad category of “borderline” illness, - particularly, class of psychopaths, - were medicalized and included in jurisdiction of forensic psychiatry. Thus, practitioners of the discipline tried to establish psychiatric control in prisons. But situation changed in 1930s: in response to “political” challenges of stalinization, the discipline started to rearrange its own professional sphere. First of all, the category of psychopaths was redefine and narrowed. Since that time only prisoners with organic deseases could be found irresponsible and subjected to coercive treatment, while all “borderline” cases of «socially dangerous» were transferred from medicine to penal system. Second, it changed tasks of the discipline. While in the 1920s studies of psychiatrists embraced the wide range of issues, especially, a link between criminality and mental illness,  and the main goal was formulated as a social expertise (in a broad sense), in the middle of the 1930s forensic psychiatry restricted it to more practical aim – to provide judicial agencies with expert opinions about accused’ mental condition. This turn was concerned with reorintation of professional jurisdiction and institutionalization of forensic psychiatry under the conditions of stalinization of science and hardening of criminal justice.