49th Tikkun Olam Award to Michael Welner, M.D.
Michael Welner, M.D. is Chairman of The Forensic Panel, board certified in psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, psychopharmacology, and disaster medicine. Dr. Welner is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist whom courts have invited to examine many of the most complex cases and notorious killers in America. His experience has brought him to cases in over 40 states and Guantanamo Bay, and his work in precedent–setting cases includes his definitive examination of several rampage killers and attempted rampage killers who survived their attacks; parents who have annihilated their families, including Andrea Yates; a range of hate crimes; risk assessment of al Qaeda at Guantanamo Bay; polygamist sect leaders such as Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers. His renowned work has inspired precedent legal decisions in a legal competency, false confessions, and most recently in an intoxication defense case unanimously decided by the United States Supreme Court. He has an extensive professional history of treating violent behavior in the outpatient setting.
Dr. Welner is one of the most important innovators in psychiatry today. He pioneered peer-reviewed oversight to improve the accuracy and fairness of the forensic examination. He has inspired and helped to write ground-breaking legislation In Illinois that brings transparency and honesty to assessing legal competency. He continues to devise strategies and to implement upgrades to the integrity of forensic science assessment.
Dr. Welner is the architect of the Depravity Standard, an evidence-based method for distinguishing crimes by severity to make sentencing fair and without bias. His landmark research on evil has essentially demonstrated that criminal depravity can be distinguished, and he is working to refine a measure that can assist courts to provide sentencing decisions immune from biases that draw from evidence of intent, actions, victimology and attitudes. The Depravity Standard will also be a vital tool to assist war crimes prosecutors, in order to transcend politically-based decision making. Dr. Welner also developed the Clinical Inventory of Everyday Extreme and Outrageousness (CIEEO), an inventory that assists clinicians to flag the most toxic of intents and effects that present in the office or evaluation setting. The CIEEO is meant to inspire the behavioral sciences to identify the presence of everyday evil in a public health strategy that prompts the next wave of researchers to develop creative interventions for detoxifying everyday (non-criminal) evil that affects others at home the workplace, and in neighborhoods.
Many are familiar with Dr. Welner from his impactful appearances on programs such as Good Morning America and CNN. He is a nationally recognized problem-solver, and has helped a variety of state legislatures, courts, and the broader public wrestle with many of the most sensitive issues in the nation today, ranging from the death penalty to video game violence. He has been at the leading edge of eliminating mass killing as an American social catastrophe for the last decade, and has joined the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in crafting a meaningful approach to crisis psychiatry and mental health.