Article

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: 1.99). 12/2010; 61(12):1217-22. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.61.12.1217
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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    • "First, psychiatric symptoms seem to directly cause a small but important minority of offenses among OMIs. Specifically, across jail (Junginger, Claypoole, Laygo, & Crisanti, 2006), parole (Peterson et al., 2010), and psychiatric samples (Monahan et al., 2001), delusions and/or hallucinations precede violent or other criminal behavior up to 10% of the time. Recent research indicates that these symptom-based crimes do not " cluster " by person; instead, they are distributed quite randomly across OMIs (some OMIs have no symptom-based crimes; others have a symptombased crime among more general crimes; Peterson, 2012). "
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    • "Specifically, (a) mental health treatment rarely reduces recidivism (see Skeem, Manchak, & Peterson, 2010) and (b) the strongest predictors of offending (i.e., the central eight risk factors) are shared by those with-and without-mental disorder (Bonta, Law, & Hanson, 1998, Phillips et al., 2005). Further, although some clinical factors such as anger and impulsivity are related to offense for offenders in general and may be indicative of an antisocial personality pattern (Andrews et al., 2006; Peterson , Skeem, Hart, Vidal, & Keith, 2010), symptoms such as psychosis lead directly lead to arrest for only a small minority of offenders with mental disorder (see Junginger, Claypoole, Laygo, & Cristiani, 2006; Peterson et al., 2010). Thus, major mental disorder (i.e., schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder) is best characterized as a non-criminogenic need for most offenders with mental disorder, and singular focus on it is not likely to reduce recidivism. "
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