Mentally Ill Offenders: The Effectiveness of Court Ordered Treatment for Violent Misdemeanant Defendants

Polly Phipps, Washington State Inst. for Public Policy

In 1998, the Washington State Legislature significantly revised public safety and treatment policy for mentally ill offenders by extending the criminal competency restoration treatment to misdemeanant defendants determined to be a public safety threat. Under past law, defendants charged with a misdemeanor crime who were determined to be incompetent to stand trial simply had charges dismissed. A public task force recommended changes after a random stabbing death by a mentally ill offender, whose charges were dismissed despite evaluator warnings of past violence and dangerousness. This study, required by the legislation, follows the implementatin of this new law. Using a quasi-experimental design, mental health and criminal outcomes for defendants who received competency restoration treatment under the new law and a matched comparison group are analyzed, focusing on the following questions: (1) What is the effect of court-ordered treatment on criminal competency?, (2) Were offenders who received court-ordered treatment more or less likely to engage in subsequent community treatment programs?, (3) What is the effect of court-order treatment on general and violent criminal recidivism?

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Updated 05/20/2006