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Psychiatr Serv. 2011 Sep;62(9):1060-5. doi: 10.1176/

Association of involuntary psychiatric examination with probability of arrest of people with serious mental illness.

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Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, University of South Florida, 13301 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Tampa, FL 33612, USA.



This study examined the association between the occurrence of an involuntary psychiatric examination under Florida civil commitment law and the probability of arrest during the next quarter.


County criminal justice records and several statewide and local health and social service data sets were used to identify inmates with a serious mental illness who spent at least one day in the Pinellas County jail between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004. These same data sets were combined with statewide arrest and prison records to identify the criminal justice and health and social services histories of these individuals from July 1, 2002, to June 10, 2006, with the four-year period divided into 16 periods of 90 days. The main analysis used individual fixed-effects models to examine the relationship between involuntary examinations and subsequent probability of arrest.


There were 3,728 inmates with serious mental illness in the sample, with 40% (N = 1,485) having at least one involuntary examination during the four-year period. Individuals who experienced an involuntary examination during the four years were arrested in 34% (N = 1,038) of the quarters after an examination and in 27% (N = 3,786) of the quarters not preceded by an involuntary examination. Individual fixed-effects models found a significant positive relationship between the receipt of an involuntary examination in one period and the likelihood of arrests, felony arrests, and misdemeanor arrests in the next period.


Involuntary psychiatric examinations were associated with increased risk of arrest. Thus an involuntary examination was a significant signal that individuals with serious mental illness were at risk for criminal behavior and arrest.

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