Analyzing Offense Patterns as a Function of Mental Illness to Test the Criminalization Hypothesis

Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-7085, USA.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) (Impact Factor: 2.41). 12/2010; 61(12):1217-22. DOI: 10.1176/
Source: PubMed


Programs for offenders with mental illness seem to be based on a hypothesis that untreated symptoms are the main source of criminal behavior and that linkage with psychiatric services is the solution. This study tested this criminalization hypothesis, which implies that these individuals have unique patterns of offending.
Participants were 220 parolees; 111 had a serious mental illness, and 109 did not. Interview data and records were used to reliably classify offenders into one of five groups, based on their lifetime pattern of offending: psychotic, disadvantaged, reactive, instrumental, or gang- or drug-related affiliation. The distributions of those with and without serious mental illness were compared.
A small but important minority of offenders with a mental illness (7%, N=8) fit the criminalization hypothesis, in that their criminal behavior was a direct result of psychosis (5%, N=6) or comprised minor "survival" crimes related to poverty (2%, N=2). However, the reactive group contained virtually all offenders with a mental illness (90%, N=100) and the vast majority of offenders without a mental illness (68%, N=74), suggesting that criminal behavior for both groups chiefly was driven by hostility, disinhibition, and emotional reactivity. For most offenders with a mental illness in the reactive group, crime was also driven by substance dependence.
Offenders with serious mental illness manifested heterogeneous patterns of offending that may stem from a variety of sources. Although psychiatric service linkage may reduce recidivism for a visible minority, treatment that targets impulsivity and other common criminogenic needs may be needed to prevent recidivism for the larger group.

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Available from: Jillian Peterson, Oct 28, 2015
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    • "Results from the current study, taken from a sample of individuals undergoing an assessment of criminal responsibility , align most closely with Taylor and colleagues' (1998) research in a high security hospital setting, and suggest that approximately three-quarters of individuals offended as a primary result of illness, and that symptoms were of a primarily psychotic nature. It is reasonable to expect that the rate of psychotic motivation in samples such as these would be higher as compared to justice-involved samples (e.g., Junginger et al., 2006; Peterson et al., 2010). These latter samples contain a greater degree of diagnostic and offense heterogeneity, whereas forensic psychiatric samples tend to be more diagnostically homogeneous and contain a higher prevalence of individuals who have committed violent offenses. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research on violence perpetrated by individuals with major mental illness (MMI) typically focuses on the presence of specific psychotic symptoms near the time of the violent act. This approach does not distinguish whether symptoms actually motivate the violence or were merely present at the material time. It also does not consider the possibility that non-illness-related factors (e.g., anger, substance use), or multiple motivations, may have been operative in driving violence. The failure to make these distinctions clouds our ability to understand the origins of violence in people with MMI, to accurately assess risk and criminal responsibility, and to appropriately target interventions to reduce and manage risk. This study describes the development of a new coding instrument designed to assess motivations for violence and offending among individuals with MMI, and reports on the scheme's interrater reliability. Using 72 psychiatric reports which had been submitted to the court to assist in determining criminal responsibility, we found that independent raters were able to assess different motivational influences for violence with a satisfactory degree of consistency. More than three-quarters (79.2%) of the sample were judged to have committed an act of violence as a primary result of illness, whereas 20.8% were deemed to have offended as a result of illness in conjunction with other non-illness-based motivating influences. Current findings have relevance for clarifying the rate of illness-driven violence among psychiatric patients, as well as legal and clinical issues related to violence risk and criminal responsibility more broadly. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Law and Human Behavior 08/2015; DOI:10.1037/lhb0000155 · 2.16 Impact Factor
    • "Rather, people with mental illnesses are involved in criminal activity similar to those perpetrated by their peers of the same socioeconomic status. For example, Peterson et al. (2010) found no distinct difference between the offending patterns of those with serious mental illnesses and their peers without diagnoses. Like other offenders, people with mental illnesses engage in crimes involving property and drugs, crimes that also are unlikely to end in instrumental violence (Draine et al., 2002; Fisher et al., 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Research SummaryThis study examined all “use-of-force” reports collected by the Portland Police Bureau in Portland, Oregon, between 2008 and 2011, to determine whether their encounters with people with mental illnesses are more likely to result in injury to officers or subjects when force is used. Although several factors significantly predicted the likelihood of injury to either subjects or officers, mental illness was not one of them.Policy ImplicationsPolice consider interactions with people with mental illnesses to be extremely dangerous (Margarita, 1980). Our results question the accuracy of this belief. As such, this “dangerousness” assertion may result in unnecessary stigmatization that may prevent people with mental illnesses from accessing needed services (cf. Corrigan et al., 2005) as witnesses or victims of crime. Policies that reduce stigma may help increase police effectiveness. Furthermore, efforts should be made to increase the availability and accuracy of data on this issue.
    Criminology & Public Policy 05/2015; 14(2). DOI:10.1111/1745-9133.12127
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    • "For instance, Engel and Silver (2001) used data from two large, multi-city policing projects and found that despite higher levels of non-compliance with police, PMIs were significantly less likely to be arrested. Novak and Engel (2005) examined police-public contacts in Cincinnati and reported similar findings (see also Fisher et al., 2006; Peterson et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to determine whether police use of force and suspect resistance are more likely to occur in arrest encounters involving suspects with mental health problems. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study uses data from interviews with 942 individuals recently arrested by officers in more than a dozen different police departments in Maricopa County, Arizona in 2010. Both logistic and ordinal regression analyses are used to predict two models of suspect resistance (resistance in the current arrest, resistance in a previous police contact) and three models of police use of force (any force in the current arrest, ordinal measure of force in the current arrest, and any force in a previous contact). Findings ‐ The results provide empirical support for a link between mental illness and increased resistance against the police. With regard to arrestee mental illness and use of force, the results are mostly consistent with prior research suggesting a null relationship, with an important caveat involving greater use of higher level, weapon force. Research limitations/implications ‐ The study suffers from the traditional limitations associated with self-report data, and the generalizability of the findings beyond arrest encounters in Maricopa County is not known. The explanatory power of the multivariate models was relatively weak, suggesting a good degree of unexplained variance. Practical implications ‐ The non-significant relationship between arrestee mental illness and use of force is consistent with efforts by police to improve their response in these complex encounters. The significant weapon-force finding may suggest that police respond to the affronts of mentally ill suspects differently than affronts from other suspects. The non-significance of key extra-legal factors suggests that police decisions to use force were not influenced by arrestee race/ethnicity, age, or social standing. Originality/value ‐ Unlike previous studies, the current research uses self-reported measures of mental health problems. The current study also examines arrests from more than a dozen different police departments.
    Policing An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 05/2014; 37(2). DOI:10.1108/PIJPSM-07-2013-0076 · 0.55 Impact Factor
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