Sentencing and "Reasonableness"
After reading about the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and the subsequent adjustments ordered by the Supreme Court, consider how these changes impact an individual judge's view of a "reasonable sentence."
Describe how you would tell a "reasonable" sentence from an unreasonable one—what are the hallmarks of a reasonable sentence?
How does a forensic psychologist's sentencing evaluation affect what would be considered a "reasonable sentence"?
After reading about the changes to the Sentencing Reform Act, do you agree with the Supreme Court decisions to grant more discretion to federal judges? Why or why not?
- Sentencing Guidelines 'Reasonable,' Justices Rule
Continuing coverage of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process from The Washington Post.
- Court Restores Sentencing Powers of Federal Judges - New York Times
In two decisions, the court said federal district judges have broad discretion to impose what they think are reasonable sentences, even if federal guidelines call for different sentences.
A reasonable sentence is typically presumed to be a sentence passed by a judge within the guidelines set by the United States Sentencing Commission (Lane, 2007). A reasonable sentence must take into account numerous factors such as: acceptance of responsibility, criminal history, if drugs were involved, level of premeditation, the harm caused to victims or to the community, mitigating factors, aggravating factors, etc. (Sentencing and Rehabilitation, 2012). When a judge decides to depart from the guidelines the judge must be able to explain the factors that warranted the increase or decrease in the sentence (Federal Sentencing Guidelines, n.d.). An unreasonable sentence is typically a sentence that is outside of the guidelines set by the United States Sentencing Commission without an equivalently justification from the judge (Lane, 2007). An unreasonable sentence could be one that is longer or shorter than what the guidelines state without an equal level of justification from the judge.
A forensic psychologist's sentencing evaluation can sometimes affect what would be considered a reasonable sentence. A forensic psychologist’s sentencing evaluation includes a risk assessment and treatment recommendations that can assist a judge in choosing the most reasonable sentence for the defendant (Gaskell, n.d.). A judge could use a forensic psychologist’s sentencing evaluation as justification for why he/she is sentencing outside of the sentencing guidelines. The evaluation might also cause the judge to decide on a non-prison type sentence in the case of mitigating factors like mental illness.
After reading about the changes to the Sentencing Reform Act I personally agree with the changes. While the sentencing guidelines do take into account many factors I do not feel that they account for all of the factors that could occur into a case. I agree that judges should be able to give sentences that are less, more, or different from the ones suggested in the guidelines as long as the judge has an equal level of justification for the sentence. The changes also allow judges to “tailor the length and nature of the sentence to the specific rehabilitative needs of the individual offender” (Johnson, 2004). My main reason for agreeing with the changes is the fact that it allows for sentencing to have an increased rehabilitation effect and less of a straight up punishment effect that does not deal with the problems that lead the offender to commit the crime in the first place.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/federal_sentencing_guidelines
Gaskell, S. (n.d.). Mitigating Factors Forensic Psychologist Evaluations - Expert Witness. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://psycholegalassessments.com/areas-of-expertise/mitigating-factors/
Johnson, B. (2004). Sentencing Reform Act (1984). Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407400268.html
Lane, C. (2007, June 22). Sentencing Guidelines 'Reasonable,' Justices Rule. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/21/AR2007062102088.html
Sentencing and rehabilitation. (2012, January 12). Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://open.justice.gov.uk/how-it-works/sentencing-and-rehabilitation/
Factors of Sentencing
A person convicted of a crime must be sentenced. Because many factors are at play in sentencing a criminal, two people who commit the same crime might not receive the same sentence. Some examples of factors that can have an effect on sentencing include:
What traits does the person have?
Was there any external cause that contributed to the crime?
How stable was the individual at the times of the act?
Were drugs and alcohol involved?
Statistics indicate that when sentences are handed down, African American males tend to get the harshest sentences, while females (regardless of race or religion) are treated more leniently. Females are less likely to be sentenced to prison, and when they are, their sentences are shorter.
Judges do use sentencing guidelines, but there is generally a good deal of leeway when determining what sentence to impose. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 required judges to consult these guidelines for mandatory (determinate) sentencing. The guidelines take into account the crime’s severity and the convicted person’s criminal history.
More than half of states in the U.S. now have “three-strikes” laws requiring extreme sentencing for persons who are convicted of a third felony. These laws, unfortunately, result in long sentences for older individuals who are unlikely to offend much longer.
Today, the United States has more than five times the number of prisoners (756 for every 100,000 citizens) than the country with the next highest prisoner rate, Great Britain (152 for every 100,000 citizens). In the United States, the number of people imprisoned for drug violations has risen dramatically, with approximately half of those in federal prison serving sentences for drug-related charges. A large percentage of those imprisoned also have had family members who have served time, have used drugs, do not have high school degrees, and make very little money. Black men are disproportionately represented in the prison population—there are more black men in prison than in college. Women are disproportionately underrepresented.
New inmates undergo a process of prisonization, which refers to learning about the culture and values of their new environment. This results in some less-serious criminals becoming more “criminalized” in their thinking. This, of course, runs counter to what we believe prison should do. Prison life removes criminals from the outside world, takes away their decision power over major issues of their life, and occurs in a highly oppressive environment where strict routines are followed every day. It is rarely rehabilitative.
Costanzo, M., & Krauss, D. (2012). Forensic and legal psychology: Psychological science applied to law. New York, NY: Worth.
Sentencing Reform Act: Historical Background
In 1981, the Washington State Legislature enacted the Sentencing Reform Act ("SRA"), which established the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and directed it to recommend to the Legislature a determinate sentencing system for adult felonies. The principal goal of the new sentencing guidelines system was to ensure that offenders who commit similar crimes and have similar criminal histories receive equivalent sentences. Sentences were to be determined by the seriousness of the offense and by the criminal record of the offender.
The Commission completed the original adult felony sentencing "grid" in 1982, and the Legislature enacted it into law in 1983. The Sentencing Reform Act took effect for crimes committed on and after July 1, 1984. Codified in chapter 9.94A RCW the SRA contains the guidelines and procedures used by the courts to impose sentences for adult felonies. The Commission continues to advise the Legislature on necessary adjustments to the sentencing structure
Prior to 1984, sentences imposed for adult felonies in Washington were indeterminate. Courts had wide discretion over whether or not to impose a prison sentence and the length of any sentence. The Board of Prison Terms and Paroles then decided when or whether to release an offender within the statutory maximum sentence period. Indeterminate sentencing is still in effect for more than 750 prison inmates who committed crimes before July 1, 1984. The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board sets the release dates for those offenders.
The Legislature has amended the Sentencing Reform Act in almost every legislative session, requiring longer periods of confinement for violent offenders, sex offenders and drug offenders. Statewide citizen initiatives have also resulted in the imposition of longer prison terms, including longer sentences for armed crime and also the nation’s first "three strikes and you’re out" measure. Where average prison terms have increased markedly in length, the state’s prison population has more than doubled since 1984.
In 1996 the Legislature directed the Commission to assume the functions of the Juvenile Disposition Standards Commission, serving similar functions with regard to juvenile sentencing.
Pre-Sentencing Psychological Evaluation
Name: Jules Bronson
Date of Birth: April 18, 1977
Evaluation Date: February 22, 2010
Date of Report: March 1, 2010
Evaluation Methods: Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, second edition (K-BIT2); Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI-III); Rorschach Inkblot Test; Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-3); Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI); record review; client interview
Examiner: William M. Barter, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
Background: Mr. Bronson was referred to Eventus by his attorney, Thomas J. Connolly, for the purpose of a pre-sentencing psychological evaluation.
Evaluation Objectives: The purpose of this evaluation is to determine to the best extent possible Mr. Bronson‟ psychological and emotional functioning and how it may impact his interaction with society and with others in general. Recommendations for sentencing, placement, and treatment will be made as appropriate.
Informed Consent: At his initial meeting with Dr. Barter, informed consent for services was obtained from Mr. Bronson. He affirmed understanding that the purpose of the evaluation was to assess his current psychological and emotional functioning. He affirmed that he understood the non-confidential nature of the evaluation if allegations of child abuse or elder abuse arose in the course of the interview. Finally, he affirmed understanding the risks and benefits of undergoing such an evaluation. After the evaluation process was explained to him, he had no questions for Dr. Barter. He was made aware that he could terminate the evaluation at any time, and that he could postpone the evaluation to consult an attorney.
Record Review: Upon referral to Eventus, two distinct sets of records were provided, one of which is the history of the criminal activity that took place in April 2001 when Mr. Bronson held up Pico‟s Pizza in Westbrook. The investigative report of the Westbrook Police Department was made available and in the course of conducting the investigation, the Westbrook Police were able to elicit fairly detailed confession by Mr. Bronson not only about the robbery but also another area robbery. On May 5, 2001 just two weeks after the offense, Mr. Bronson sent an apology letter to Maria Lonzo, the owner of Pico‟s Pizza. On December 29, 2001, Gary McKenney, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, verified that Mr. Bronson had completed phases one, two, and
three and was currently enrolled in phase four of the substance abuse education and counseling program at the Cumberland County Jail. Mr. McKenney went on to state that by completing 24 hours of group counseling and 1 hour of individual counseling, Mr. Bronson had demonstrated a commitment to recovery and a dedication to improving the quality of his life.
On March 6, 2003, a sentencing memo was produced by Joel Vincent, the attorney for Jules Bronson, relative to the 2001 robbery of Pico‟s and Pizza Hut. Mr. Vincent cited Mr. Bronson‟ turbulent childhood and history of abuse. His attorney believed that Mr. Bronson was a viable candidate for the adult drug court as a condition of probation because he had complied with his treatment while incarcerated. Mr. Vincent argued for an unsuspended sentence of three years and a period of probation of six years with a condition of probation that he be screened for the adult drug court. On April 4, 2003, the Honorable Robert E. Crowley of the Superior Court in Cumberland County sentenced Mr. Bronson to 14 years with all but 7 years suspended and 6 years of probation for the robberies.
According to Attorney Connolly, while at the pre-release at the county jail during the nine months prior to release, Mr. Bronson did very well. The structured environment and the availability of productive work while at the pre-release center allowed him to do so. He was drug free and motivated and he was creating a business and establishing himself as a dependable painter. However, according to Mr. Connolly, upon Mr. Bronson‟ release from the pre-release center, he failed within the first few hours. This occurred when he went to his wife‟s apartment upon his release and found her in a vulnerable and distressed state. She was reportedly in need of a fix and begged her husband for his help. Mr. Bronson helped her obtain drugs and she then convinced him that it would be okay for him to use also, which he did. Mr. Bronson then engaged in a shoplifting spree with his wife and a friend. He shared in some of the proceeds of the theft of items that he sold on behalf of the others involved.
At the end of October 2009, Probation Officer Tamson Ross filed a Motion for Probation Revocation because Mr. Bronson failed to report police contact and failed to refrain from the use of unlawful drugs. He also failed to report to probation within 48 hours of release, which took place on August 27, 2009. He also failed to refrain from new criminal conduct in that he committed the offensive theft class C in South Portland. Despite being told to report for probation on October 5, 2009, Mr. Bronson failed to do so.
On October 17, 2009, Probation Officer Tamson Ross produced a Level of Service Inventory report that indicated high risk for Mr. Bronson and a recommendation of no bail and full revocation of probation.
Upon referral to Eventus, Mr. Bronson‟ attorney also provided a 13 page handwritten autobiographical history presented by Mr. Bronson. Mr. Bronson detailed some of the family dysfunction, which he also spoke of in the evaluation that follows.
Personal History: Mr. Bronson stated that he was born in Portland, the son of Frank Loranzo and Lola Bronson. He stated that Frank and Lola had two children and this included himself and his younger sister, Crystal. He stated that both of his parents have a child from subsequent relationships. He said that he was two years old when his parents separated and that for a time he lived with his maternal grandmother. He stated that at the age of three he was sexually molested by his grandmother‟s brother. He stated that his mother pushed the children aside and was in a relationship with a man on and off. He stated that he would live with his grandmother during those times of uncertainty and sometimes his mother would live with them as well. He stated that he remembers the whole sexual abuse like it happened yesterday. He said that the abuse was just reported within the family and it was a big family secret. He stated that for a while his mother came and got the children when she found out about the abuse, but she did not keep the children for an extended period of time. He stated that he went back and forth between paternal and maternal grandmothers. He said that his father was not in his life at all. He said that he knows his father but they are not close. He described his mother as currently being a best friend and said that he talks to her five or six times daily.
Mr. Bronson stated that he and his family lived off the state but they got what they needed to grow up. He stated that he grew up in the City of Portland and his mother worked off and on. He does not recall his father ever paying child support. He then stated that the father did not do “shit” for the family. He stated that his father still works as a trainer and was a serious body builder with a full gym on the second floor of his mother‟s house.
Mr. Bronson stated that there were no other instances of child sex abuse. He stated that the abuse that he suffered at the age of three consisted of his great uncle making him perform fellatio, which he called “a blowjob”. He stated that it only happened once and he does not remember if his uncle ejaculated. He stated that he tried to run away but he pulled him the hair back into the boiler room to sexually abuse him. He stated that he never had counseling for the abuse. He stated that he has never really had mental health treatment at all.
Mr. Bronson stated that he attended Portland public schools and was a good student in elementary school, so much so that he was allowed to skip the fourth grade.
Mr. Bronson stated that he was expelled from King Middle School and he also got into a fight at Lyman Moore. He stated that he was transferred to Lincoln Middle School where a teacher took him under his wing. He said that he liked to draw and he came in second in a New England drawing contest sponsored by Shop „n Save. He stated that he attended Deering High School and left in the middle of the tenth grade. He said that at that time he was having a lot of problems at home and his sister was in and out of Jackson Brook Institute (now Spring Harbor Hospital). He stated that his mother was never there for the children and so he had to take care of himself and get himself ready for school every day.
Mr. Bronson stated that he was expelled from Deering for fighting and he spit on the principal. He stated that he then went to the school on Douglas Street and Bill Suttleworth was the principal and helped him out a great deal. He was also allowed to continue in sports as long as he stayed in school. He stated that he was in and out of school, however, and ran away at the age of 15 and never graduated from high school. He stated that he played basketball at a Boy‟s Club. He said that he has since obtained his GED at the Cumberland County Jail. With regard to his educational goals, Mr. Bronson stated that he is trying to go back to get an electrician‟s license.
Asked about significant relationships, Mr. Bronson stated that the mother of his oldest child is named Willita. He said that this was a two-week relationship and he has no contact with the child that was born of that relationship. He stated that he was then with a girl named Naomi for 5 years until the age of 20. He stated that it was the worst relationship ever and that they stayed with Naomi‟s mother but when her mother was evicted, they moved from house to house. He stated that Naomi would sleep around with other guys even when she was a teenager and they were adults. He said that she was sleeping with all of his friends. He said that he was not able to leave her for some reason, however. He stated that it got to the point of him doing drugs really bad and he ultimately chose drugs over Naomi. He stated that she gave him an ultimatum of the drugs or her and he chose the drugs. He stated that whenever she started liking somebody else she would put a PFA on him. He stated that there was no violence between them and that he has never hit a woman.
Mr. Bronson stated that he was in a relationship with Liz, who is also the mother of a child of his. He stated that he met her because a good friend was with her for one-year prior. He stated that he was with Liz for one and a half years until he went to jail for robbery. He stated that the child‟s name is Dearly Love Bronson. He stated that she was 3 months pregnant when he went into jail and she waited 14 months before breaking off the relationship. He stated that subsequently he found out that she lied about having been unfaithful. Mr. Bronson stated that he was subsequently in a relationship with Keisha for three years but he was in jail and he met her through an old roommate. He stated that she would write to him and visit. He said that they had no children and that she slept with somebody else and told him about it five months before he was released.
Mr. Bronson stated that his wife‟s name is Kulani and that he met her through a cousin. He stated that he met her in November 2007 and was with her until he was jailed in October 2009. Asked why he married her and none of the other women, he stated that she wanted to get married but he did not. He stated that when she insisted on going to City Hall and getting married, he responded, “Whatever let‟s go”. He stated that everything was Kulani‟s way and what she wanted to do and that she has control over everything. He stated that she is currently pregnant but he is not sure if the child is his. He said that he has filed for divorce. He stated that on August 27, 2009 he had done nine months and when he got home she was dopesick. He stated that he talked to her about getting clean but he ended up going out and getting drugs for her and she was too sick to use the drugs so he did the drugs himself. He stated that they engaged in theft and Kulani subsequently
went to rehabilitation and is now on Subutex. He described their relationship as “a lot of guys, girls, and money”. He stated that he and Kulani got money for doing shows for people and having sex in front of people. He stated that he engaged in some private dancing and some prostitution as well. He then added that he is not in any relationships now and he is finished with relationships while he concentrates on himself because he is clean. He added, however, that he hates being alone.
Asked about his health, Mr. Bronson stated that he is generally healthy except that he has Hepatitis C from IV drug use. He stated that he is not currently on treatment for Hepatitis C because it is not acute. Mr. Bronson stated that when he was 18 a benign tumor was removed from his kidney. He stated that the Hepatitis C was diagnosed in 2003. He stated that he is not HIV positive and has no other STDs. He also stated that he has 20/20 vision and good hearing.
Asked about substance use or abuse, Mr. Bronson stated that at the age of 14 he started using alcohol and he drank throughout his teen years and was in and out of bars. He stated that he hung out with older men and they would get alcohol for him. He stated that his uncle would take him to bars and slip him drinks. He stated that he was in a car accident at the age of 18 and started using pain pills and quickly became addicted. He stated that he is not a marijuana smoker. He stated that he got into street drugs and bought OxyContin and did a lot of heroin. He stated that his aunt showed him how to inject drugs and he enjoyed it a lot more. He added, however, that his aunt died of a drug overdose.
Mr. Bronson stated that he has been at the Mercy Detoxification for three-day programs. He stated that when he has not had anything he would go through withdrawals and it is the last option. He stated that he never went to Mercy to get into recovery and Mercy eventually stopped taking him. He stated that even while he was on Methadone, he was still shooting Oxys. He stated that at one point he went through $170,000 in drugs. He said that he does not attend recovery groups in jail because even though there is AA, people do not take it seriously.
In terms of what the drugs do for him, Mr. Bronson stated that he does not care about anything around him when he is on drugs. He stated that he is relaxed and nothing else matters. He stated that he feels like he can talk and he feels sheltered by the drug feeling. He stated that he never really trusted anybody to talk to. Mr. Bronson stated that he plans to stay clean and wants to get out to a rehab and go to get his electrician‟s license. He stated that he would like to take advantage of the drug court system.
Mr. Bronson stated that the time in jail does not bother him but it is what happens when he gets out that makes him concerned. He stated that he needs a good solid program to change the pattern of his life. He said that he gets very discouraged. He said nothing is changing because jail is what he knows. He stated that in general the judge and the DA have not supported drug court but he hopes that this changes.
Regarding criminal history, Mr. Bronson stated that he has two charges for class A armed robbery in Cumberland County and one charge of robbery conspiracy and attempted in York County. He stated that he was on probation for assault in 1998 but forgets who the victim was. He stated that he violated his probation a lot back then and had dirty urine tests and did 30 days. He stated that that particular probation is finished. He stated that he is currently on probation hold because of being caught stealing from Target in the fall of 2009. He stated that he has never had any trafficking or possession charges or any drug related charges. He also stated that he is awaiting sentencing for violating probation and failure to report.
Mr. Bronson was asked to talk a little more about his childhood and sexual history given his victimization. He stated that at the age of 10 he was checking his body development and his stepfather saw him and beat him up for it. He stated that after he beat him up and left him on the floor he called him a faggot. He described his puberty as normal. He said that he became sexually active at the age of 15. He stated that he had some normal adolescent sexual experimentation with friends, etc. He described himself as primarily heterosexual. He stated that he does not remember being sexually abused as an older child. He stated that the grandmother does not believe the allegations from when he was three years old. He stated that he forgives his abuser to some extent because his great uncle, the perpetrator, is now dying and is an old man. Mr. Bronson stated that he has never been forced to have sex and never forced anybody to have sex.
Despite his statement that he had never been sexually abused as an older child, Mr. Bronson went on to describe a family friend who was in his sixties who would buy him things and would leave him (Mr. Bronson) feeling beholden for the generosity. He stated that this 60-year-old man took him snowmobiling up in northern Maine when he was only 14 and he gave him alcohol. He sated that he came in and out of consciousness on the bed and was naked with this man kneeling next to him. He stated that he kept him there for two days despite the fact that he begged to go home to see his mother. He stated that he finally called home and this man became nervous and took him home. When asked by the evaluator if he felt that he might have been sexually abused by this man, he seemed a bit surprised at first but then realized that even as a teenager he had been exploited by adults sexually, likely including this 60-year-old man.
Mr. Bronson stated that he has no history of counseling. He stated that he has no history at the Long Creek Youth Development Center. He stated that he has no history of being in group homes and no history of psychiatric treatment. He stated, however, that he knows he self-medicates when he is feeling bad psychologically.
Mr. Bronson stated that he sometimes has racing thoughts but not when he is using drugs. He denied having any racing thoughts during our interview. He described some dysphoric periods, but he said that he does fairly well in controlled settings such as the jail. He said, however, that there are periods during which he cannot stop crying and things just build up inside and let loose. He stated that he always has had a hard time trusting people. He stated that despite his mood dysregulation he is never a violent person. Mr. Bronson
stated that he has a good appetite and that he works out and does yoga and meditates. He said that he sleeps about eight hours at night. He stated that he takes Doxepin to help him sleep. He said that he has also been diagnosed with PTSD. He denied any visual or auditory hallucinations. When given a mental status exam, he was fully oriented to person, time, and place.
Mr. Bronson stated that a gentleman by the name of Donald, who started out as a pen pal, has taken him under his wing and has been very helpful. He stated that Don is nearing retirement and is a successful businessman. He stated that upon release he would like to go stay with Don who lives in the Allens, Maine area. He stated that Don has a lot of corporate friends and would like to buy properties and renovate them with the help of Mr. Bronson. He stated that he would really like to get out of the Portland area as soon as possible after release.
Asked if he has any plans for parenting, Mr. Bronson stated that he has contact with Dearly and he used to take her every weekend. He said that he would like to get his life together. He said that if Kulani‟s child is his, he wants full custody of the child. He stated that Kulani is currently in a very unhealthy relationship. He said, however, that for him to make such a commitment would require paternity testing.
Clinical Impressions: Mr. Bronson is a man who appears to be his stated age. He is of athletic to muscular build. He was interviewed and tested at the Cumberland County Jail and was dressed in prisoner garb. He appeared cooperative with jail staff, and was not shackled. He was well groomed and clean-shaven. He was apparently free from intrusive thought and was fully oriented to person, time, and place throughout the evaluation process. He was pleasant and cooperative with the psychologist.
Psychometric Testing Results: Mr. Bronson was administered the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT2). He obtained a K-BIT I.Q. Composite standard score of 94 (average) with a 90% confidence interval of 87-101. The results of this administration of the K-BIT2 indicate intact I.Q. that falls within the average range. Mr. Bronson was by all accounts a bright young man who should not have difficulty succeeding in intellectual pursuits if desired.
Mr. Bronson completed the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI-III). As might be suggested, his responses evidenced high levels of drug dependence. He also reported very high manic activation as part of a possible bipolar process and secondarily some major depressive symptoms. On Axis II, his clinical personality patterns reveal Dependent and Antisocial Personality Disorder with negativistic and self-defeating features.
Mr. Bronson was administered the Rorschach Inkblot Test and his 16 responses to the blots were sufficient in number and quality to support valid hypotheses. Mr. Bronson appears to be in a state of chronic and substantial stimulus overload resulting from persistent difficulty in mustering adequate psychological resources to cope with the
demands being imposed on him by internal and external events in his life. Because his adaptive capacities are not sufficient for him to manage the ideational and emotional stressors in his life without becoming unduly upset by them, he is at risk for recurrent episodes of overt anxiety, tension, nervousness, and irritability. People with this pattern of stimulus overload tend to have limited tolerance for frustration and less than average ability to persevere in the face of obstacles; consequently they may show a tendency toward impulsive outbursts of unwarranted affect or ill-advised actions. The degree of his stimulus overload is likely to be preoccupying and disorganizing. Even in fairly structured situations in which he knows what is expected of him, he is at risk for becoming psychologically incapacitated at least temporarily and appearing to others as noticeably agitated or distraught. Because of the considerable dissatisfaction he is likely to be experiencing with himself or his life at this point, Mr. Bronson is more likely than most people to feel the need to change and to be receptive to interventions designed to reduce his level of subjectively felt distress. In light of indications that his adaptive capacities are below average for an adult, he is more likely to benefit in treatment from an approach focused on helping him to improve his coping skills and to learn effective strategies for stress management than from effort to reduce the stressors in his life specifically.
The Rorschach further revealed that Mr. Bronson appears to be experiencing some intrusive posttraumatic ideation consisting of disconcerting and worrisome thoughts that serve no apparent purpose and are likely to be impairing his ability to concentrate. He gives evidence of a cautious approach to interpersonal situations which may contribute to a greater than average susceptibility to experiencing stress in social settings and in close involvement with others. He shows a potentially maladaptive style of experiencing and expressing affect in which he exerts more stringent control over his feelings than most adults. He is likely to be an emotionally reserved person who has difficulty relaxing emotionally, being spontaneous, showing his feelings, and relating to others on a casual and informal basis. Mr. Bronson shows adaptive capacity for and interest in being introspective. Independent of the extent to which he is self-focused in general, he has a moderate level of self-awareness that contributes to his being cognizant of how best to meet his own needs, sensitive to the way his behavior affects other people, and reasonably open to reconsidering his self-image and impression of himself. This capacity for introspection and self-awareness is a personality asset that typically facilitates effective participation in psychotherapy and positive personality change. Mr. Bronson appears to have limited ability to manage interpersonal relationships in a comfortable and rewarding manner. He may conduct himself appropriately in social situations and at times even make an initially favorable impression on other people. Nevertheless, as a consequence of inadequate social skills that may not be readily apparent, he tends to opt for superficial and transient relationships with others and to back away from involved or prolonged relationships out of concern that they will make more demands on him than he can handle. He appears capable of thinking in a flexible manner that facilitates his being able to contemplate alternative prospections on his experience, to consider changing his point of view, and to keep his mind open to new information in previously unfamiliar ideas, no matter how long or firmly he has held his present opinions and beliefs. Such
flexibility is a personality asset that promotes good adjustment and contributes to progress in psychotherapy, although it does not ensure that a person will always think logically and coherently.
Mr. Bronson completed the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-3). His responses were open and honest and yielded a valid profile. Not surprisingly, Mr. Bronson provided a profile that shows a high probability of having a substance dependence disorder.
Mr. Bronson completed the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI), a measure of the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. His responses were open and honest and yielded a valid profile. The TSI is generally used in the evaluation of acute and chronic posttraumatic symptomology, including the effects of rape, spousal abuse, physical assault, combat experiences, major accidents, natural disasters, as well as the lasting sequelae of childhood sex abuse and physical abuse and other early traumatic events. The various scales of the TSI assess a wide range of psychological impacts. There were two significant elevations on the TSI. First of all, Mr. Bronson endorsed Defensive Avoidance. This is a posttraumatic avoidance that is both cognitive and behavioral and follows on the heels of inadequate resolution of posttraumatic stress. Mr. Bronson also endorsed dysfunctional sexual behavior. This means that he reported sexual behavior that is somewhat dysfunctional either because of its indiscriminant quality, its potential for self-harm, or its inappropriate use to accomplish non-sexual goals.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
DSM- IV Multiaxial Diagnosis
Axis I: 309.81 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Primary Diagnosis)
304.80 Polysubstance Dependence
296.80 Bipolar Disorder, not otherwise specified
300.4 Dysthymic Disorder
Axis II: 301.6 Dependent Personality Disorder
301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder
301.9 Personality Disorder, not otherwise specified, with negativistic and self-defeating features
Based on testing and history, Mr. Bronson evidences significant deficits in mental and personality functioning, He is also polysubstance dependent, and this exacerbates his faulty self-regulation quite significantly.
Mr. Bronson has a significant trauma history, some of which he does not fully realize or appreciate. While he can identify the sex abuse he suffered at age 3, he seemed entirely
unaware that being taken advantage of by an older man as a young teen also constituted child sex abuse and victimization. The memory he describes as age 3 is likely what is known as a “flashbulb” memory. Generally, children have little to no memory of events before their early scholastic careers, but in the case of significant and traumatic events, bits and pieces of memory remain. That Mr. Bronson has a fairly intact flashbulb memory of being grabbed by the hair at age 3 as he was being sexually abused, strongly suggests that his sexual victimization was more traumatic and enduring than he remembers. By his own report, he has received no appropriate treatment for his trauma. His use of sex as a survival mechanism is further evidence of reenactment often seen in the victims of sex abuse.
At a young age, Mr. Bronson learned to medicate his trauma and manic activation with drugs and alcohol. His bipolar process and untreated trauma are extremely high risk factors for self-medication, and will continue to be so until he receives adequate psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment.
Mr. Bronson has significant Axis II personality pathology. The most vexing has been his Dependent Personality Disorder. This is characterized by entering into and remaining in unhealthy relationships, even when those relationships are clearly destructive. He dreads being alone in life, and this is also symptomatic of the disorder. His self-defeating traits lead him to “shoot himself in the foot” when it comes to making decisions.
Mr. Bronson‟ antisociality is also problematic. It is possible, however, that with sustained remission from his substance abuse, the antisocial symptoms will remit. Overall, intoxication and drug activation, along with drug withdrawal, have led him to engage in antisocial behavior in the service of his addiction.
A significant finding on the Rorschach Inkblot Test (and to some degree in the interview and history) is that Mr. Bronson is a good candidate for treatment. Indicators on the structural summary of the Rorschach using the Comprehensive System are that he is amenable to change. He has grown tired of the trajectory of his life, and is likely ready to open up in therapy.
It is strongly recommended that Mr. Bronson be afforded Drug Court sentencing. He should also be allowed to follow his plan of leaving the Portland area and moving to the Bangor area to pursue gainful employment. He must engage in intensive psychotherapy to address his abuse trauma. In addition, he needs a full psychiatric consultation to determine if a mood-stabilizing regimen could reduce his need self-medicate his bipolar process. While there is no medication to treat Axis II personality pathology, psychotherapy would be most helpful in this case, as Mr. Bronson will need to address his dependency needs in relationships, as well as his self-defeating and defective decision-making processes.
By his own admission (and history), Mr. Bronson does best in structured settings. He is rightly concerned about his ability to remain safe outside of the prison system if he is not in a very structured treatment regimen that is supervised by the courts. This evaluator would concur, and would strongly suggest a Drug Court solution for Mr. Bronson that requires all of the treatment elements listed above.