The conditional release of insanity acquittees: Three decades of decision-making

Barbara E McDermott, Charles L Scott, David Busse, Felecia Andrade, Michelle Zozaya, Cameron D. Quanbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The problem with the practical application of decision-making regarding release of mentally ill defenders lies in the inherently ambiguous definitions of mental illness and dangerousness, both of which are necessary for the continued commitment of insanity acquittees. In this study, we examined how clinicians make release decisions in a forensic facility, with particular attention paid to how such decision-making may have changed over time. Records were reviewed to determine documented criteria indicating readiness for release. The results indicated that compliance and treatment response were the primary reasons that the patients were judged ready for release. In addition, increasing attention to the use of substances as a risk factor was evident in the records, with substantially more documentation found in the most recent decade. Our data suggest that clinicians view three concerns to be of primary import when making release decisions: responsiveness to and compliance with the treatment, substance use, and risk of violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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