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Social Structural Contingencies in the Decisions of Criminal Courts to Commit Defendants as Incompetent to Stand Trial and Criminally Insane

Social Structural Contingencies in the Decisions of Criminal Courts to Commit Defendants as Incompetent to Stand Trial and Criminally Insane

Abstract

This paper reports the findings of structural level research into the process of commitment of criminal defendants as incompetent to stand trial because of insanty in Louisiana. Conceptualizing criminal courts as open systems, it was predicted their structural environments would operate as contingencies in the perception and labeling of defendants as being (or having been at the time of the offense) mentally incompetent. Several structural-cultural features were predicted to have contingency effects on forensic commitment. (1) mileage of parish seat to the state s single forensic facility, (2) ruralness, (3) metropolitanism (SAISA status), (4) religious and cultural ethnicity, (5) relative power of the parish population to influence criminal court outcomes, and (6) community climate of repressiveness. These varibles' effects on parish commitment rates were analyzed using path analysis techniques, and results did indicate that the probability of incompetency and criminal insanity labels being applied were contingent on the parishes' social structural characteristics. Interestingly, the proximity of the parish to the hospital had the greatest direct effect on the commitment rate.
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