Issues and considerations regarding the use of assessment instruments in the evaluation of competency to stand trial

Patricia A Zapf, Jodi L Viljoen
Behavioral Sciences & the Law 2003, 21 (3): 351-67
Since the early 1960s, a number of instruments, reflecting a broad range of assessment methods, have been developed to assist in the evaluation of competency to stand trial. These instruments have taken various forms including checklists, self-report questionnaires, sentence-completion tasks, and interview-based instruments with and without criterion-based scoring. This article reviews these assessment instruments with a specific focus on their contribution to the competency evaluation process. Furthermore, relevant issues and considerations regarding the use of these instruments are outlined, including a comparison of screening versus assessment applications of these instruments, balancing standardized approaches with individualized assessments, the integration of instrumentally derived data with other components of a competency evaluation, and the communication of results to the fact finder. Each of these issues is discussed in relation to specific competency assessment instruments. Overall, we argue that each of the competency assessment instruments developed to date can make a contribution to the competency evaluation process and this article serves to delineate those areas in which these contributions are made.

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