Homelessness and Competency to Stand Trial: Understanding the Intersections Between Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Criminalization in Competency Outcomes.

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Holly Cross


Arts and Sciences


Psychology, Law, Sociology

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


Competency to stand trial (CST) is a due process right guaranteed by the 14th amendment. As a result of the Supreme Court Case Dusky v. United States (1960), CST is defined as a defendant’s abilities to rationally and factually understand trial proceedings, as well as consult with their attorney. Individuals who are mentally ill are more likely to be incompetent to stand trial and are more likely to be referred for evaluations to determine if they are competent or incompetent to stand trial. The escalating increase for referrals on competency to stand trial (CST) evaluations has impacted the process of legal proceedings and due process rights in many states, potentially including, potentially, Indiana. One hypothesized contributing factor to the national competency crisis is the association between homelessness and CST referrals. The relation of homelessness and competency could be attributed to a variety of factors include: substance abuse, mental illness, and criminalization of poverty. Our study aims to investigate the relationship between homelessness, CST referrals, and CST evaluation outcomes. Using the Odyssey Public System, we had a population of over 4000 CST evaluations. We sampled 150 of these evaluations for the current research question. Using mycase.in.gov, additional data about the case (including specific charges, whether the defendant was homelessness, and outcome of CST and those cases) was coded by student research assistants. This poster will review the background of this growing problem and identify how many (CST) evaluations in Indiana involve homeless individuals and the outcomes of those cases.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

This work was completed in collaboration with the Lab of Applied Forensic Psychology under the supervision of Dr. Holly Cross, Assistant professor of psychology. Lab members who contributed to this research include: Kayla Smith, Rylee Garzavaltierra, Alexandra Herbert, Skylar Easha, Abigail Thompson, Allison Kom, and Kamila Wolowiec. They are current undergraduate students at Valparaiso University. Interest within this research topic was to understand the relations between homelessness and competency to stand trial by reviewing the associations of mental illness, substance abuse, and the criminalization of poverty.

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