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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2008;36(1):74-86.

Characteristics of persons with severe mental illness who have been incarcerated for murder.

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School of Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


In this descriptive study, we analyzed data collected from multiple state agencies on 95 persons with severe mental illness who were convicted of murder in Indiana between 1990 and 2002. Subjects were predominantly suffering from a mood disorder, were white and male with a high school education or equivalent, were living in stabilized housing, and, to a lesser degree, were involved in significant intimate and familial relationships. Rage or anger, overwhelmingly directed toward intimate or familial relations by the use of a firearm or sharp object, was the most frequently mentioned motive for murder. Most of those studied had been raised in households with significant family dysfunction, had extensive histories of substance abuse and criminality, and had received little treatment for their mental and substance use disorders. Findings are contextualized and compared with similarly descriptive studies of nonlethal violence and persons with a mental illness; hospitalized, schizophrenic and psychotic murderers; and homicide offenders outside the United States.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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