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Int J Law Psychiatry. 2013 May-Aug;36(3-4):287-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.04.013. Epub 2013 May 10.

Malingering in the correctional system: does incentive affect prevalence?

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Division of Psychiatry and the Law, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Davis, 2230 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95817, United States.


Incentives to malinger vary greatly dependent on the context, as does the prevalence. Malingering in the medico-legal context of the criminal courts is generally for one of two purposes: to present as incompetent to stand trial or to successfully plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Estimates of the prevalence of malingering in these contexts vary between 8 and 21%. The prevalence of malingering increases dramatically in a general offender sample, where the external incentive is likely to be substantially different. Malingering in this context can be as high as 56% and generally occurs to obtain a more desirable housing situation or desired medications. Our study examined data from two distinct samples to evaluate incentives to malinger: patients found incompetent to stand trial (IST) and sent to a state hospital for restoration and jail inmates seeking psychiatric services (JPS). Our results indicate that the rate of malingering in the IST sample was consistent with rates published in comparable samples (17.5%) and the rate for the JPS sample was substantially higher (64.5%). Only in the IST sample was rate of malingering associated with offense severity: patients found IST for murder and robbery evidenced malingering rates more than double the sample as a whole. Offense severity bore no relationship to malingering in the JPS sample.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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