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.