Post-Hinckley insanity reform in Oregon

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1990;18(4):405-12.


The 1983 Oregon legislature responded to public pressure to narrow the application of the insanity defense by eliminating personality disordered individuals from consideration for an insanity verdict. This article examined the effects of the statutory change, and found no significant change in the frequency of insanity acquittals of personality disordered subjects between the three pre-reform years (n = 21) and the three post-reform years (n = 14). We also reviewed how the Psychiatric Security Review Board handled these patients once committed to their jurisdiction. We constructed a matched comparison group of psychotic acquittees and found that in the pre-reform years the personality disordered subjects spent less time in the system and less time in the hospital than the psychotic patients. However, in the post-reform years their time in the system and time in the hospital was the same as the psychotic controls. There were fewer decisions to discharge personality disordered patients from the system after the reform, although this difference may be due to factors other than the statutory reform itself. The conclusion is that narrowing the insanity defense is a worthy goal which may be difficult to achieve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / trends
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Oregon
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology