Development of a measure of adjudicative competency: The New Jersey competency assessment tool (NJ-CAT)

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Assessment of competency to stand trial is a relatively common evaluation in the context of a criminal adjudication with the potential for significant consequences for the defendant and the criminal justice system as a whole. A wide variety of assessment measures have been developed to aid evaluators in competency assessments based on the standards set forth in Dusky v. United States, yet many of these measures have been criticized in recent years for a variety of reasons, including poor applicability to the competency standards set forth by individual states. The present study involves the initial development of a measure of competency specifically designed to assess competency based on the New Jersey standard. This study focused on development of scoring criteria for the New Jersey Competency Assessment Tool (NJ-CAT) based on review of previous competency evaluations in New Jersey. It was hypothesized that the NJ-CAT scores would differ significantly for criminal defendants determined to be competent versus incompetent by expert evaluators, and that significant differences would be found in NJ-CAT scores for those adjudicated competent versus incompetent by the fact finder during a competency hearing. Both hypotheses were supported by statistical analysis.

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American Journal of Forensic Psychology

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