Juveniles Adjudicated Incompetentto Proceed: A Descriptive Studyof Florida's CompetenceRestoration Program

A. McGaha, R. K. Otto, M. D. McClaren and J. Petrila,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 29(4): 427-437, 2001.
Although competence to stand trial is perhaps the most studied area of mental health law, most of the research has been focused on adults. This study describes a population of 471 juveniles committed for treatment/habilitation and restoration of their competence to proceed in the delinquency process. This population differed from their adult counterparts in important ways. For example, 58 percent of the juveniles had a diagnosis of mental retardation, and 57 percent of the juveniles with an Axis I diagnosis also had a diagnosis of conduct disorder. Only 17 percent had a diagnosed psychotic disorder. Diagnoses among cohorts of adults found incompetent differ markedly. However, similar to adult defendants who are adjudicated incompetent to proceed, the majority of these children were returned to court after treatment staff determined that they were competent to proceed. Contrary to expectation, there were no significant age-related differences with respect to the recommendation of clinical staff regarding restoration of competence. The data suggest the need for further research examining that subset of children in the juvenile justice system whose competence to proceed is questionable.