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by Thomas Grisso
by Thomas Grisso

Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations: Just the Basics

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• 2014   162pp paperback   ISBN: 9781568872032

    Thomas Grisso offers a superb primer on competently conducting CST evaluations.  The step-by-step process from collecting the data to writing your report is presented in a clear and concise manner with appendices to aid further study.  
    Competency to stand trial evaluations are among the most common forensic evaluation referrals in criminal and juvenile courts nationwide.  This title provides a review of the most fundamental concepts and methods for performing these evaluations.  It includes the essential legal and conceptual background, how to select the right data-collection methods, a step-by-step process for performing competency interviews and data collection, a framework for interpreting them, and how to write the report.
     Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations: A Manual for Practice, was the first text Dr Thomas Grisso wrote on this topic.  As in that work, Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations: Just the Basics, is organized according to Grisso's now-classic structure that identifies "five components" for legal competencies, each leading to five objectives that frame the whole evaluation process in competency to stand trial cases.  Beyond those similarities, this new work has been substantially revised to include new case law, new methods, and new guidance based on the latest research on competency to stand trial.
     Writing in the style of a senior mentor's advice, Grisso has distilled this process into the "least you need to know" for performing creditable evaluations and reports.  Consistent with its streamlined objectives, this book informs practice that is consistent with the latest methods and research, but it leaves the detailed analyses to other references.  This book offers ample direction to resources where you can find that advanced information as you further develop your skills for competent evaluations.
      This book is an ideal first-exposure to competency to stand trial evaluations for graduate students, clinicians who are re-tooling for forensic practice, undergraduates who are getting their "first look" at forensic psychology, as a refresher course on recent evaluation techniques for those already conducting such evaluations & appearing in court, and as pre-meeting reading for participants in competency to stand trial workshops.

"Grisso has written another gem.  In this concise volume, he guides the reader through a competence to stand trial evaluation, beginning with the legal context and proceeding through data collection and data interpretation.  As is typical of his books, Dr. Grisso clearly and articulately describes the nuances of the evaluation process, including the critical topic of how to write a good forensic report for this referral question.  The reader gains the benefit of Grisso's many decades of thoughtful intellectual leadership in the field."
     -Philip Witt, PhD, ABPP, served as president of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology (AAFP) and the examination faculty of the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP).  He is in private practice in Somerville, NJ.

"This easy-to-read, user-friendly volume will prove valuable to novice and more experienced examiners.  The uninitiated will benefit from Professor Grisso's discussion of basic issues such as the construct of trial competence, the legal context in which it occurs, the obligations of forensic examiners conducting these evaluations, the strengths and limitations of various competence assessment tools, and effective ways of communicating one's work, findings, and opinions.  All examiners will learn much from his discussion of more advanced matters such as how case complexity should figure into judgments about trial competence, consideration of response style, and how to conduct assessments that address a defendant's reasoning and decision making abilities - and go beyond simple assessment of his or her understanding.  Also noteworthy are the resource sections at the end of the volume and the examples Professor Grisso employs to make points about assessment of trial competence and the examiner's reasoning process."

     -Randy Otto, PhD, ABPP, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Table of Contents
Getting Started
        The Reason for the Competence Doctrine
        Sources of Law Defining Competence to Stand Trial
        The Legal Standard for Competence to Stand Trial
                The Dusky Standard - Unity of the Legal Concept of Competence to Stand Trial
                - Competency in Juvenile Court
        The Legal Process for Competence to Stand Trial
                Raising the Question - The Evaluation - Hearing on Competence - Disposition
                of Incompetence Findings - Remediation and Re-Evaluation
        Common Misconceptions About Competence to Stand Trial
                Competence and Criminal Responsibility - Legal Competence and the
                Competence Evaluation - Competence and the Adjudication Process
        The Functional Objective
                Types of Competence Abilities - The "Factual" and "Rational" Understanding
                Concepts - The "UARC" Concepts
        The Casual Objective
                Causes Allowing for a Finding of Incompetence - Causes Typically Not Allowing for a Finding of Incompetence - Response Style as a Source of Impaired
        The Interactive Objective
        The Conclusory Objective
        The Dispositional Objective
        A Comment on Irrelevant Objectives
        Objectives for Types of Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations
        Data for the Functional Objective
                Semistructured Interviews and Standardized Approaches
                Idiographic Standardized Methods
                Nomothetic Standardized Methods
                Standardized Methods for Special Populations
                Archival and Observational Data
        Data for the Causal Objective
                Archival and Third-Party Observational Data - Psychopathology: Mental Status
                Interview Methods and Tests - Intellectual Functioning (Developmental
                Disability) - Organic Mental Disorders - Developmental Immaturity -
        Data for the Conclusory Objective
        Data for the Dispositional Objective
                Methods for Assessing Remediability - Assessing Treatment Options
                Taking the Case - Clarifying the Question - Obtaining Background Information
        Scope and Setting of Evaluations
                Producing a Record - Attorney Notification and Presence to Monitor the
                Evaluation - Audiotaping the Evaluation
        Defendant Preparation
        Conducting the Evaluation with the Defendant
                Inquiry about Background and History - Clinical Inquiry - Inquiry about Current
                Alleged Offense - Assessing Competence Abilities 
        Special Considerations in Competence Evaluations of Juveniles
                Parent Interviews
                Multiple Sessions
                Data Collection Methods
                Developmental History
        After the Evaluation Session
        Functional Objective: Inferences about Type and Degree of Deficits in Competence
                Deficits in Understanding - Deficits in Appreciation - Deficits in Reasoning -
                Deficits in Communication
        Causal Objective: Inferences to Explain Deficits in Competence Abilities
                Inferences about Delusional Beliefs - Inferences about Developmental
                Immaturity - Inferences about Dissimulation and Malingering
        Interactive Objective: Inferences about the Significance of Deficits
        Conclusory Objective: Reaching a Conclusion about Competence or Incompetence
        Dispositional Objective: Inferences about Remediation
                The Dispositional Questions - Competence Remediation Programs
                Competence Remediation Programs
        Guidance for Communication of Competence Evaluations
                The Court - Defense Counsel - The Defendant - The Public
        Functions of Competence Reports
                Competence Reports are Legal Documents - Competence Reports are Forensic
                Documents - Competence Reports are Read by Non-Clinicians
        Organization and Content of Competence Reports
                Referral Question and Identifying Information - Methods of Evaluation - Clinical
                Information - Opinions and Recommendations
        Matters of Style in Competence Reports
                Be Careful and Definitive - Focus on the Referral Question - Strike a Balance on
                Detail - Put the Reader in Your Office - Avoid Prejudicial Content - Explain,
                Explain, Explain
        Where Competence Evaluations are Performed
        How Courts Obtain Competence Evaluations
        How Examiners Acquire Referral Information
                Why the Question Was Raised - Inappropriate Referrals - Getting Records
        How Systems Control the Quality of Competence Evaluations
                Requirements for Procedures and Methods - Qualification, Certification and
                Continuing Education Systems - The Trial Process as Quality Control
        Going Forward
Appendix A: Advanced Resources for Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations
Appendix B: Legal Cases Relevant for Competence to Stand Trial
Appendix C: Ways to Describe Abilities and Trial Demands Relevant for Competence to
        Stand Trial
Appendix D: Obtaining Instruments to Assess Competence to Stand Trial Abilities
Appendix E: Sample Report for a Competence to Stand Trial Evaluation

CE Program
A supplemental 6-credit, 60 question continuing education program is available for this book.  To order the complete program (this book and CE test module, or test module alone if you already have access to this book), go to: Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations: Just the Basics - CE Program (6 Credits)

For information about our approved continuing education sponsorships
and acceptance by state boards, please click here:
Continuing Education

About the Author
Thomas Grisso, PhD, ABPP, is Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Psychology, and Director of the Law-Psychiatry Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  For over 30 years, his professional work has aimed at improving courts' decisions and mental health professionals' evaluations in legal cases pertaining to juveniles and persons with mental disorders.  His contributions bridge research and practice.  His research studies of developmental factors related to youths' interrogation and adjudication have influenced US Supreme Court decisions as well as basic policy and practice in our juvenile courts nationwide.  His dedication to forensic practice is reflected in his role as Executive Director of the American Board of Forensic Psychology.  Dr. Grisso's work has been recognized by awards from the American Psychological Association (1995, Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy), the American Psychiatric Association (2005, Isaac Ray Award), the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2006, honorary fellow), and the American Psychology-Law Society (2012, Distinguished Contribution to Psychology and Law).  In addition to his significant works dealing with juvenile justice issues, Dr. Grisso has also authored many other highly regarded titles including Evaluating Competencies: Forensic Assessments and Instruments (2003), Foundations of Forensic Mental Health Assessment (2009; co-author), and Specialty Competencies in Forensic Psychology (2011; co-author).

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