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Evaluating the pathways of Finnish offenders into forensic psychiatric hospitals - a quantitative exploration

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of Sociology

Doctoral candidate: MSocSc Miisa Törölä

Date and venue: 26.4. at 10 noon, auditorium MS301, Medistudia, Kuopio campus

Language of the public examination: Finnish

Language of the dissertation: Finnish

This dissertation study examines life courses of offenders with mental illnesses who were evaluated as not being criminally responsible. The aim of this research is to increase the understanding of forensic psychiatric patients as members of Finnish society by describing their social background, institutional profiles and social status. Complementing the existing knowledge from the fields of forensic psychiatry, criminal psychology and nursing science, this research targets socially defined processes concluding with being assigned the status of a forensic psychiatric patient.

The theoretical framework of the study is founded on the concepts of the social role of psychiatric patients and social inequality. The application of situational action theory enabled the positing of a forensic psychiatric explanation of non–responsibility based on a broader theoretical model with emphasis on social support and social control. The sources of the research data consist of mental state examination reports of offenders with mental illnesses evaluated as not being criminally responsible from 2000 to 2012, and register–based data of previous juridical and psychiatric interventions (sub-study 1: n = 106; sub-studies 2 and 3: n = 218; sub-study 4: n = 279).

From the life course perspective, there are various pathways to be assigned the status of a forensic psychiatric patient. Patients form three institutional groups: 1) ex-psychiatric patient service users with criminal backgrounds, 2) ex-psychiatric patient service users and 3) patients without previous psychiatric inpatient treatment. Among the patients, those with criminal backgrounds stand out as the most socially disadvantaged group, showing an accumulation of social factors leading to their vulnerable societal position. By contrast, patients without previous psychiatric inpatient care normally had some education and were in the labour market.

Childhood circumstances and social position also define the quality and variety of sources of social control in adulthood. Based on latent class analysis of the situational features of index crimes (the offences that are the focal point of mental state evaluation), three offence groups were identified: 1) family–related, in which the offenders had social support networks consisting of family members, 2) peer–group–related, in which the offenders spent their everyday life with other substance users, and 3) property–centred or non–premeditated offences, in which the offenders were more likely to be psychiatric patient service users. This studystresses the importance of both informal and formal social support provided to people with mental illnesses, and also the role of social vulnerabilities and social control, leading to situations where illegal acts can occur.

The doctoral dissertation of MSocSc Miisa Törölä, entitled Evaluating the pathways of Finnish offenders into forensic psychiatric hospitals - a quantitative exploration, will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The opponent in the public examination will be Professor Timo Harrikari of the University of Tampere, and the custos will be Professor Ilpo Helén of the University of Eastern Finland.

Photo available for download at http://kuvapankki.uef.fi/A/UEF+kuvahakemisto/16186?encoding=UTF-8