A comparison of civil patients and incompetent defendants: pre and post deinstitutionalization.

T. M. Arvanites,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 18(4): 393-403, 1990.
There has been a great deal of speculation that deinstitutionalization has resulted in the criminalization of the mentally ill. Using two samples of defendants found incompetent to stand trial (IST) and two samples of civil patients randomly selected from five states, pre and post deinstitutionalization, this research compares changes in their mental health and arrest histories. After deinstitutionalization, fewer and less dramatic differences in the arrest and mental health histories were evident between ISTs and civil patients. Both patient samples displayed significant increases in prior hospitalization and arrest histories. Among the civil patients there was a significant increase in the frequency and seriousness of criminal activity. There was no evidence that IST commitments are being expanded to hospitalize the nondangerous mentally ill no longer subject to civil commitment.