Dangerousness commitments: indices of future violence potential?

R. A. Zeiss, E. D. Tanke, H. H. Fenn and J. A. Yesavage,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 24(2): 247-53, 1996.
This study examines the accuracy of long-term clinical predictions of dangerousness among psychiatric inpatients and explores factors influencing the levels of such accuracy. Hospital and state criminal history records of all psychiatric patients (N = 31) for whom, during a four-year period, treatment staff pursued extended civil commitments based on dangerousness under the Postcertification for the imminently Dangerous statute (California Welfare and Institutions Code section 5300) were reviewed. A matched control group consisted of 31 patients who had been placed on 14-Day Certifications for Dangerousness to Others, but who were not subsequently placed on 180-Day Postcertifications. Sixty-one percent of patients in the postcertification group engaged in documented physically assaultive behavior during the extended one- to five-year follow-up period, compared with 26 percent of patients in the matched control group, suggesting that inclusion in the extended commitment group was indicative of greater long-term potential for assault. Differences in assaultiveness did not emerge during the first year of followup, but became clear and significant over subsequent years. Accuracy of prediction differed as a function of patient ethnic group.