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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1999;27(2):239-51.

Explaining lifetime criminal arrests among clients of a psychiatric probation and parole service.

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  • 1School of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214, USA.


This study examines the extent to which sociodemographic characteristics, clinical characteristics, substance abuse problems, and the array of lifetime criminal behavior may explain lifetime arrests among offenders supervised by the psychiatric probation and parole service. Three hundred twenty-five clients with new cases at a psychiatric probation and parole service in a large urban center were screened for major psychiatric disorders. They were also interviewed for socio-demographic characteristics, mental health treatment history, criminal behavior, and arrest history. Hierarchical block multiple regression analysis tested a model explaining lifetime arrests. After controlling for age and other demographic variables, the number of lifetime psychiatric hospitalizations and lifetime occurrences of mania diagnosis significantly explained lifetime arrests. The total model explained about 10 percent of the variance in lifetime arrests after controlling for opportunity variables, which explained 45 percent. The explanatory power of lifetime hospitalizations and mania support the contention that symptoms, rather than diagnosis, may be the most important clinical factor in explaining criminal arrest among persons with mental illness. Implications for psychiatric services include the development of effective jail diversion programs.

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