Psychopaths consume an astonishingly disproportionate amount of criminal justice resources. The label psychopath is often used loosely by a variety of participants in the system—police, victims, prosecutors, judges, probation officers, parole and prison officials, even defense lawyers—as a kind of lay synonym for incorrigible. Law and psychiatry, even at the zenith of their rehabilitative optimism, both viewed psychopaths as a kind of exception that proved the rehabilitative rule. Psychopaths composed that small but embarrassing cohort whose very resistance to all manner of treatment seemed to be its defining characteristic.
Psychopathy is a constellation of psychological symptoms that typically emerges early in childhood and affects all aspects of a sufferer’s life including relationships with family, friends, work, and school. The symptoms of psychopathy include shallow affect, lack of empathy, guilt and remorse, irresponsibility, and impulsivity (see Table 1 for a complete list of psychopathic symptoms).