Until recently, the Criminal Code of Canada, enacted in 1892, stood stalwart to social, political and technological changes, particularly with respect to the regulations pertaining to the management of the mentally ill offender. This became more definitely so with the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1984) as many regulations in the Code about mentally ill offenders contravened the mandates contained in the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada's decision on Regina v. Swain spurred the Federal Government to bring the regulations on the mentally ill offender into line with the Charter. The result was the enactment of Bill C-30 which was intended to dramatically change the way in which forensic psychiatry was practised in Canada. This paper presents the Alberta findings from a multi-site evaluation commissioned by the Federal Department of Justice to judge the effects of Bill C-30 on forensic health care practices.
Health records data were used to compare utilization patterns from the year prior to the enactment of Bill C-30 with the year following. In addition, qualitative data were obtained from key clinical and legal informants outlining implementation difficulties that they had experienced.
Results support the judgement that Bill C-30 has not achieved its desired effects with respect to the length of the remand, and has resulted in an increased burden on hospitals and health care providers. In addition, an unanticipated finding was the increased use of the Mental Health Act which was considered to place forensic patients in a position of double jeopardy.
Comment In: Can J Psychiatry. 1995 Jun;40(5):223-47553539
This paper constitutes the first stage of data analysis in a larger controlled study designed to assess the effect of a forensic psychiatric assessment on legal disposition defined in three ways: 1. the number of days spent in custody prior to trial; 2. the number of sentenced days of incarceration; and 3. the conviction rate. A historical cohort design was used to follow two cohorts of individuals remanded, pretrial, to Southern Alberta Provincial Correctional Centres between 1988 and 1989. The study cohort consisted of all offenders detained who received a forensic psychiatric assessment. The comparison cohort consisted of a random sample of persons detained who did not undergo a forensic assessment. Because of small numbers, individuals below the age of 18 and women were excluded from study. This paper compares socio-legal characteristics of study and comparison subjects in order to better understand forensic psychiatric referral patterns and identify potentially confounding factors that would need to be controlled in subsequent analyses of legal outcomes. No differences were noted with respect to educational level but forensic subjects were found to be slightly older (average of 31 years compared to 29 years). Aboriginal peoples (Native Indian, Inuit and Metis) were three times more common among non-forensic offenders. Forensic patients were more likely to have had a prior forensic assessment but less likely to have a prior criminal detention. In addition, forensic patients were three times more likely to be charged with a crime against a person and counted more offenses in the target episode than comparison subjects.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)