Factors associated with the diversion of mentally disordered offenders.

S. Davis,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 22(3): 389-97, 1994.
This study is an examination of the process of pre-trial diversion, in which prosecutors use their discretion to drop criminal proceedings against mentally disordered persons on the condition that such persons be certified and detained for treatment in a hospital setting. An attempt was made to uncover the factors relevant to understanding why mentally disordered offenders are diverted in some instances but not in others. Using data from the forensic psychiatric system of a Canadian province, it was found that accused persons were diverted into the mental health system in 13.4 percent of cases over a three-year period. Three factors were found to be significantly associated with the diversion decision: 1) offense seriousness, with persons facing less serious charges being diverted in a greater proportion of cases; 2) court jurisdiction, with courts in smaller centres and outlying areas being more likely to divert; and 3) psychiatrist, with considerable variability between psychiatrists in their use of the diversion mechanism. The significance of these results and implications for forensic psychiatric policy-making are discussed.