Determining competency to stand trial: An examination of evaluation procedures in an institutional setting

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Examined the procedures used by mental health professionals to decide whether a defendant is competent to stand trial in the context of evaluations conducted in an institutional setting. Analyses of psychiatric reports and other data revealed several differences between 140 competent and 130 incompetent defendants, largely in terms of traditional psychiatric criteria. Although there is evidence to suggest that decisions about competency are reliably made, the validity of such decisions is highly questionable. No evidence that supports the link between psychiatric symptomatology and incompetency is available. The data also suggest that lengthy institutional evaluations may be unnecessary, since it appears that the additional information obtained during hospitalization does not influence decisions about competency. Changes in the evaluation procedures that may increase the validity of the competency judgments are discussed. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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