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Trauma, Crime, and Competency Restoration: The Impact of Trauma in a Forensic Setting

22 July 2019


Competency restoration is an important process for individuals diagnosed with mental illness who have been accused of a crime. The Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST) population continues to rise, increasing the need for services. Currently, focus is placed on regaining competency through pharmaceutical treatment and legal skills training. Competency evaluations require IST patients to learn legal information, and regulate their emotions enough to participate in the evaluation process. Trauma has been found to impact multiple areas of life, including learning, and emotional regulation. Thus far, there has not been any research conducted on how trauma impacts competency restoration. This dissertation is part of an ongoing study at the Oregon State Hospital (OSH), using competency evaluation reports to derive data from. It was hypothesized that having a history of trauma would lead to longer lengths of stay (LOS), and evaluation outcomes of ‘non-restorable.’ While trauma did not correlate to increased LOS at the OSH, other significant correlations were found during exploratory analyses. Specific types of trauma correlated to prior hospitalizations, current felony charge(s), having an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and obtaining a General Education Degree (GED). The IST population presents with multiple challenging factors including homelessness (35.3%), unemployment (89.1%), prior arrests (73.4%), prior hospitalizations (70.5%), severe mental illnesses such as psychotic disorders (61.3%), trauma throughout lifetime (67%) and a history of childhood trauma (53.8%). Results indicate a need for increased trauma treatment in the OSH, more community resources for IST patients, and improved trauma-informed training for arresting officers and healthcare providers.


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