Emerging issues in forensic mental health


John Petrila

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forensics, risk assessment, mental health policy


Forensic mental health traditionally was considered the backwater of forensic practice. However, because of advances in knowledge regarding the core issues of capacity and risk, and because of changes in the location of forensic assessment and treatment, “forensic” issues now permeate mental health practice and policy. While these advances have been important, there are a number of new issues that will occupy the attention of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in the future. This article explores these issues and their implications, including the need to better integrate treatment and risk; the need to address the emergence of special jurisdiction courts and their impact on systems design issues; the need to address the impact of conservative social policies, particularly in the areas of juvenile justice and sexual predator legislation; and the need to better understand the use of coercion in the context of community treatment.