Of Unsound Mind

To be "of unsound mind" (non compos mentis) is, in legal terms, to be considered incompetent to stand trial and therefore situated somewhere between the penal approach of criminal law and the therapeutic directives of psychiatry and social work. It was the intersection of crime and madness that this project first sought to illuminate. 

More than that, the extent to which these two approaches (penal/policing approach vs. therapeutic/psychiatric approach) can actually be considered or thought about separately from one another appears questionable. This project was created to explore psychiatric power's similarities with the police power, but also their historical entanglement and mutual constitutions.


More recently, I have turned my attention to the history of radical psychiatry, various forms of social psychiatry, and towards a broader historical inquiry into how and why psychiatric thought and practice develops or transforms as it does. This work is completely independent of any institution, non-profit, or organization.

Research, writing, and design by Sasha Durakov Warren.

Benjamin Rush's Tranquilizing Chair (181

Mental Health Behind Bars

The judge and the forensic psychiatrist get lunch together before they commit the next schizophrenic. The police officer and the social worker are on a first-name basis; both know which chemical tranquilizer acts fastest. The inmate at the security hospital is unsure whether she's in prison or the hospital. The same psychologist that assures the delinquent/mentally ill student he's the innocent victim of traumatic and unfair systems fears his outbursts and dials 911 when he screams at school.  

The criminal is already mad. The forces which identify and categorize these two types, watch them, and detain, manage, control, or eliminate them are often the same, and, when they aren't (i.e. when they are bifurcated into special fields like "municipal police" and "forensic psychiatrist"), they operate within the same horizon of knowledge and practice.

Policing and mental health care aren't antagonistic practices, but mutually constitutive. There is no moment where one operates without the other. A "non-policing psychiatry" wouldn't resemble the institutional psychiatries that dominate capitalist societies today. A "non-psychiatric criminal law" would be missing a legal category that makes it work, namely, insanity.

The stories we have been told about the history of psychiatry are simplistic to the degree of dishonesty. Binaries of care vs. punishment or benevolence vs. retribution conceal the ways in which the logics of incarceration and security are embedded on both sides. When these binaries are opposed to one another in order to legitimate one at the expense of the other, their shared underlying logic spreads ever farther, and without real detriment to either.

Of Unsound Mind seeks to explore how psychiatric knowledge and practice is, and always has been, a constitutive element of policing, incarceration, and surveillance (and vice-versa) in capitalist societies. A project of building worlds without prisons and police must therefore include reframing not just how we think about crime, but also madness and disability in relation to capitalism.