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Competence to stand trial and criminalization: an overview of the research

  • Amanda Beltrani (a1) and Patricia A. Zapf (a2)

Abstract

Beginning in the 1960s, a steady decline in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds has occurred across the United States, primarily as a result of stricter civil commitment criteria and a societal movement toward deinstitutionalization. Concomitant with this decrease in psychiatric beds has been a steady increase in the number of mentally ill individuals who are arrested and processed through the criminal justice system as defendants. One consequence of this has been an explosion in the number of defendants referred for evaluations of their present mental state—adjudicative competence—and subsequently found incompetent and ordered to complete a period of competency restoration. This has resulted in forensic mental health systems that are overwhelmed by the demand for services and that are unable to meet the needs of these defendants in a timely manner. In many states, lawsuits have been brought by defendants who have had their liberties restricted as a result of lengthy confinements in jail awaiting forensic services. The stress on state-wide forensic systems has become so widespread that this has reached the level of a near-national crisis. Many states and national organizations are currently attempting to study these issues and develop creative strategies for relieving this overburdening of forensic mental health systems nationwide. The purpose of this article is to review the current state of the research on competence to stand trial and to highlight those issues that might be relevant to the issue of criminalization of individuals with mental illness in the United States.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address correspondence to: Patricia A. Zapf, PhD, Continuing & Professional Studies, Palo Alto University, 1791 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA94304, USA. (Email: patricia.zapf@gmail.com)

References

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Keywords

Competence to stand trial and criminalization: an overview of the research

  • Amanda Beltrani (a1) and Patricia A. Zapf (a2)

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