Volume 38, Issue 6 (November 1993)
Competency, Civil Commitment, and the Dangerousness of the Mentally III
The purpose of this study was to assess if a relationship exists between the nature of an individuals criminal charges and the finding of fitness among defendants evaluated at the Forensic Psychiatry Clinic servicing Manhattan. We examined the records of 354 defendants referred to the Forensic Clinic from the New York Criminal and Supreme Courts for a competency to stand trial evaluation. We reviewed their charges in light of the finding of competency. Incompetent defendants were most often accused of misdemeanors rather than felonies and of non-violent rather than violent crimes. Perhaps individuals who are thought to be psychiatrically disturbed get detained by the police on trivial charges so as to get them off the streets. Deinstitutionalization and civil commitment laws are considered as contributing factors and their impact is discussed.