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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Forensic clinics : a comparative study Armstrong, John Maxwell


The main purpose of this study is to examine the uses of forensic clinics in the administration of criminal justice as devices for the identification, diagnosis of treatment of psychiatric disorder in convicted offenders. A subsidiary aim of the study is to assess the feasibility of the establishment of such a facility in British Columbia. The thesis is introduced by an account of those changes in the criminal law which have resulted in its ceasing to be a simple instrument of deterrence and in increasing attention being paid to the principles of extenuation and rehabilitation. An attempt is then made to survey and evaluate recently published data on the prevalence and distribution of mental disorders in criminal populations, and the conclusion is drawn that approximately one fifth of all persons convicted of an indictable offence in typical North American jurisdictions are suffering from psychiatric problems serious enough to play an important part in their prospects of rehabilitation, even if those problems have had little direct causal significance in the commission of the original crimes. This is followed by a survey of the statutory auspices, administrative structures, clinical programs and financial bases of eight established forensic clinics, seven in the United States and one in Canada. This survey, together with material drawn from the published literature of criminology and public administration, serves as the basis of an attempt to formulate the requirements of an "ideal" forensic clinic. The model synthesized in this fashion is then applied to the local Provincial situation and a series of recommendations are made concerning the procedures to be followed and the principles to be observed in establishing a forensic clinic in British Columbia. The principal desiderata of effectiveness for a forensic clinic identified in the thesis are that: (1) in regard to both staffing arrangements and the character of its program, the clinic should be inter-disclipinary rather than purely psychiatric; (2) it should be expected to give purpose and precision to existing correctional facilities in the penal system, and not to compensate for the fact that none actually exist; (3) it should have no fixed commitment to dealing exclusively with one particular class of offenders (such as sexual offenders), but should hold itself ready to deal with any offenders whose problems and whose treatment it can competently advise on; (4) its workloads should never be such as to reduce its activities to routine levels or raise the dangers of perfunctoriness; (5) it must be sensitive to the working problems and needs of the courts of criminal justice but independent of direct control by the judiciary.

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