Expanding the Early and Late Starter Model of Criminal Justice Involvement for Forensic Mental Health Clients
The early and late starter model provides one of the most enduring frameworks for understanding the developmental course and severity of violence and criminality among individuals with severe mental illness. We expanded the model to account for differences in the age of onset of criminal behavior and added a group with no prior contact with the justice or mental health systems. We sampled 1,800 men and women found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in 3 Canadian provinces. Using a retrospective file-based study, we explored differences in criminal, health, demographic, and social functioning characteristics, processing through the forensic psychiatric system and recidivism outcomes of 5 groups. We replicated prior research, finding more typical criminogenic needs among those with early onset crime. Those with crime onset after mental illness were more likely to show fewer criminogenic needs and to have better outcomes upon release than those who had crime onset during adulthood, before mental illness. Individuals with no prior contact with mental health or criminal justice had higher functioning prior to their crime and had a lower risk of reoffending. Given little information is needed to identify the groups, computing the distribution of these groups within forensic mental health services or across services can provide estimates of potential intensity or duration of services that might be needed. This study suggests that distinguishing subgroups of forensic clients based on the sequence of onset of mental illness and criminal behavior and on the age of onset of criminal behavior may be useful to identify criminogenic needs and predict outcomes upon release. This updated framework can be useful for planning organization of services, understanding case mix, as well as patient flow in forensic services and flow of mentally disordered offenders in correctional services.