Competency Rates for Offending Juveniles And Mental Health Resources in Washington State

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Holly Cross (nee Buckman)


Arts and Sciences


Psychology, Criminology, Forensic Psychology, Law, Legal Systems, Juveniles, Justice

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


Competency is a legal state, suggesting the ability to aid and contribute to one’s own defense, and a crucial aspect of due process rights in the United States. Juvenile offenders may be more likely to be referred for competency evaluations due to the subjective interpretation of the Dusky standard and non-impartial guidelines in the measurement of adolescent competency to stand trial. Whereas adult defendants are declared incompetent due to severe mental illness or intellectual disabilities, juvenile defendents are declared incompetent based on the discretion of the judge or other legal decision-makers. This paper will explore and describe the factors that influence discretion in determining juvenile competency, and how those elements differ from components determining adult competency. This project will provide a critical review of juvenile competency case law to examine whether statutory direction of competency evaluations of juveniles reflects psychological research on adolescent development and mental illness. Comparisons will also be made with adult competency statutes and research to identify potential differences in competency referral rates. Additionally, it will investigate whether social factors, like homelessness, impact judge’s, or other legal decision-maker’s, discretion in determining legal competence or referrals for competency evaluations by reviewing publicly available data and prior research. Potential implications for legislative policy or court procedures will be discussed in relation to these findings.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Alessandra Luciano is currently an undergraduate Psychology and Communications student with a Social Work Minor. She is a Communications Intern at Atlas Engineering Group, Behavioral Health Technician at Midwest Center, President of Active Minds, Mental Health Chair for Sigma Lambda Gamma, Outreach Chair Executive Officer for G.U.A.R.D.S., a member of the Dance Marathon Leadership Team— Fundraising, and a member of the Psi Chi National Honors Society.

Alexandra Herbert is a freshman undergraduate student interested in Psychology.

Rachel Dewitt and Macy Siegfied are 3rd and 4th co-authors.

Holly Cross, PhD. (nee Buckman) is currently a Lecturer for the Psychology Dept.

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