How the mentally ill should be handled criminally
As someone with a mental illness who has struggled with violent thoughts, I have learned to not use my mental illness as an excuse to get away with behavior that could harm myself or others. I also believe the same rule applies for all mentally ill people.
The most common mental illnesses, I believe, are ones along the lines of depression and anxiety- ones like I have. While these people are afflicted with a mental condition that causes them to act and think abnormally, they are still considered sane enough to know what they are doing when they commit the crime. If I were to murder someone and then use my anxiety or bipolar disorder as part of my excuse, I would not be pleaded not guilty under insanity.
My example above is admittedly weak, though, as one cannot always tell whether a person is mentally stable just by observing them. There are tons of serial killers throughout history that act completely sane and normal but are then revealed to be psychopaths. Therefore, psychological expertise should be required in determining whether a mentally ill person should be excused for crime under the plea of insanity.
The judicial system should play a role in handling mentally ill criminals as well. To me, the safety of a community should come first when it comes to crime; even though an individual is insane or too mentally handicapped to grasp the full consequences of his or her actions, they shouldn't be let go without consequences because they are still dangerous to themselves and/or others around them. Instead of typical punishment such as fines and prison time, psychiatric consequences should be applied in regards to mentally ill criminals, whether it be putting the individual in psychiatric custody or ordering the individual to see a therapist or take part in a psychiatric program. However, the consequence should be tailored to the individual's psychiatric needs in order to not only properly protect the community from the more dangerous criminals, but to provide more effective help to the mentally ill as well.