Guilty Except for Insanity - Maddening Journeys Through an American Asylum

"Unfolds as a profound critique of institutional care tragically overtaken by the criminal justice system."


— Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School

Psychology and Social Action

Guilty Except for Insanity is guided by the social action tradition in the field of psychology - a tradition committed to understanding social problems and facilitating social change. The documentary developed as an application of research findings in the field of community mental health.

We also sought to produce a high-end, gripping documentary that would illustrate and humanize the dilemmas of patients themselves and dramatize the broader social forces that shape their fates. Guilty Except for Insanity grew out a class taught by Prof. Haaken where students found that media coverage of the crisis at the Oregon State Hospital had actually heightened community fears of patients. Further, the reliance on locked treatment facilities when patients leave the hospital also seemed to heighten perceptions that all patients leaving the hospital remain dangerous.

From pre-production through production and post, the documentary project has included intensive collaboration with psychiatric patients and survivors, front-line staff, and activist community groups. Special screenings have been scheduled and will continue to be scheduled so that participants have the opportunity to comment on the project.

Woven through the film are songs, art, text, and graphics produced by patients in collaboration with the project. Envisioned as a feature-length film suitable for theatrical release, an hour-length version and shorter special features will be produced as well for distribution through public television broadcasting and for educational outlets in a dvd format.