Characteristics of persons with severe mental illness who have been incarcerated for murder

School of Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (Impact Factor: 0.93). 02/2008; 36(1):74-86.
Source: PubMed


In this descriptive study, we analyzed data collected from multiple state agencies on 95 persons with severe mental illness who were convicted of murder in Indiana between 1990 and 2002. Subjects were predominantly suffering from a mood disorder, were white and male with a high school education or equivalent, were living in stabilized housing, and, to a lesser degree, were involved in significant intimate and familial relationships. Rage or anger, overwhelmingly directed toward intimate or familial relations by the use of a firearm or sharp object, was the most frequently mentioned motive for murder. Most of those studied had been raised in households with significant family dysfunction, had extensive histories of substance abuse and criminality, and had received little treatment for their mental and substance use disorders. Findings are contextualized and compared with similarly descriptive studies of nonlethal violence and persons with a mental illness; hospitalized, schizophrenic and psychotic murderers; and homicide offenders outside the United States.

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    • "It was also found that 38% of the individuals in the sample experienced only delusions, 5% experienced only hallucinations, and 41% experienced both delusions and hallucinations. Contrary to many other studies (e.g., Bland & Orn, 1986; Fulwiler et al., 1997; James & Glaze, 2006; Matejkowski et al., 2008; Swanson et al, 1990), Hodelet did not find a relationship between violent behavior and substance abuse. Nijman et al. (2003) compared the difference in background factors between offenders diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and offenders not diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to explore historical or demographic factors of inmates diagnosed with a psychotic disorder as well as to assess whether any of these factors distinguish violent and nonviolent offenders diagnosed with mental illness. The sample consisted of 73 male inmates who had been released from Oregon Department of Corrections before 2004. Of these, 44 had been convicted of nonviolent crimes and 29 had been convicted of violent crimes. Inmates’ institutional and medical files were examined for 18 factors: conviction, arrest record, race, marital status, employment history, highest grade level completed, psychiatric treatment before arrest, inpatient treatment, psychiatric medication history, probation or parole revocation, history of disciplinary reports, age of first crime, age of onset of psychosis, parents’ marital status before participant reached the age of 18, history of abuse, history of substance abuse, family history of crime, and violence before the age of 18. The results of a frequency analysis showed large differences (10% or more) between nonviolent and violent inmates for the following variables: race, marital status, parents’ marital status, type of parent/guardian figure present in the childhood home, unemployment 6 months before arrest, age of psychotic onset, revocation of probation or parole, disciplinary reports, and history of violence. A chi square analysis was conducted to determine if there were any significant differences in the variables between violent and nonviolent offenders. There was a significant difference in age of psychotic onset. Inmates in the violent group more often experienced psychotic onset between the ages of 15 to 19 than at younger or older ages, whereas inmates in the nonviolent group more often experienced psychotic onset before the age of 15 and between the ages of 20 to 29.
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