Title

Evaluation of Factors Relating to Competency Ratings in Washington State since COVID-19: Crime, Homelessness, and Evictions

Faculty Sponsor

Holly Cross

College

Arts and Sciences

Discipline(s)

Psychology, Criminal Justice

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021

Abstract

Competency evaluation referrals, which determine whether people with mental illness have the capacity to aid in their own defense, have been increasing in Washington state over the past 10 years. This increase has created significant delays in legal proceedings, impacting due process rights of citizens with mental illness. These delays may further be exacerbated by the consequences of the Covid-19 global pandemic, particularly regarding crime and homelessness rates. On a national level, property-related crime rates have increased. Furthermore, Covid-19’s economic damage has also increased homelessness rates, even with the national eviction moratorium’s mitigation measures. The purpose of this research is to ascertain whether these macro-level ecological factors may be contributing to the increase in competency referrals which are overwhelming the state hospitals and forensic services available in the state of Washington. Utilizing archival data published by state departments between 2017 and 2020, a multilevel time-series model will be utilized to nest data by year, type of referral (i.e., felony or misdemeanor), hospital (i.e., Western State Hospital or Eastern State Hospital), and county (taking into account county-level factors such as crime rates and homeless population size) to predict Covid-19’s impact on competency evaluation referrals. Competency evaluations are essential for a fair trial. Thus, between increased demand for such evaluations and Covid-related consequences, there may be a critical backlog in resolution of legal cases. By understanding the causes of this backlog, legislators can identify and create programs to address this crisis.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Rachel DeWitt is a sophomore student double-majoring in Statistics and Communication.

Macy Siegfried is a freshman student majoring in Psychology.

Alexandra Herbert is a freshman student majoring in Health Sciences.

Alessandra Luciano is a junior student majoring in Psychology.

Holly Cross, Ph.D. (née Buckman) is a current Lecturer for the Valparaiso University Psychology Department.

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