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Hewlett-based psychologist Dr. Richard Sternberg writes ‘By Reason of Insanity’


Hewlett-based psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Richard Sternberg wrote a book that describes the backgrounds of criminally insane people that he came across while working at a psychiatric center. 

The class of 1965 Hewlett High School alum Sternberg’s first book “By Reason of Insanity: A Glimpse into the Lives and Minds of the Criminally Insane” published last August highlights four men that were acquitted of serious criminal charges by reason of insanity, or as the official statement reads, “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.” 

Sternberg encountered the individuals when he worked as a staff psychologist at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, a maximum-security forensic psychiatric center located in New York City, from 1996 to 1999. 

“In my first week of working at the institution, I thought to myself that I should write a book about the people in here,” Sternberg said. “The idea stayed in the back of my head and I never worked on it while I was working there. I began writing the book about 10 years after I stopped working there.”

Sternberg keeps the identities of the individuals discussed confidential, but they are based on people he interacted with at the institution. “I came to know several hundred of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever met and choosing the very limited number of individuals I would portray in this book was a difficult task,” he said. “I have not necessarily selected the most lurid or sensational cases, but have instead chosen individuals whose histories, crimes, personalities and psychopathology make compelling stories.”

He does have a chapter dedicated to daily life at the institution, which he described as generally quiet. “There were 160 people there at any given time,” he said. “In certain wards, fights between patients occurred frequently; but they rarely involved serious injuries.”

Dr. Jerry Gold is a psychologist based in Great Neck who has known Sternberg for roughly 20 years. Gold described the book as being a unique read. “I was excited and enthusiastic about this book since I had worked at the same institution prior to Richard working there,” Gold said. “There are so many TV shows about the criminal world and the psychiatric world. I thought this would be something the average person can read that would give them an inside look to the mentally insane.”

Gold added that Sternberg’s background as a psychoanalyst makes this a great read. “When you’re reading a news article about a criminal case, the reporter isn’t able to give an in-depth background on the person and how it has gotten to the point of where they're committing crimes,” he said. “Richard gives the background on the individuals in this book.”

Steven Kunchuck, president of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, is a colleague of Sternberg’s. He said that the book is unlike anything he’s ever read before. 

“The stories are fascinating and sensitively rendered; the writing is as crisp, accessible and compelling as a strong piece of fiction,” Kunchuck wrote in an email. “I recommend this for anyone hungry to explore the darkest recesses of the human mind.”

The book can be purchased online at https://bit.ly/2N7mW2D and the publishers website IPBooks.net