Law and Psychiatry Program

Law

The Law and Psychiatry Program in the UMass Department of Psychiatry is an interdisciplinary network of UMass Medical School faculty devoted to research, training, and clinical services at the interfaces of medicine, behavioral science, and the law. Since its beginning in 1985, the program has acquired a national reputation for developing academic and applied innovations that have significantly advanced the fields of psychiatry, psychology and law. 

The primary mission of the program is to provide Massachusetts and the nation’s public sector agencies with high quality mental health and forensic evaluation and treatment services. Core faculty members, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and attorneys, contribute to that mission through the program’s training activities, clinical activities, and research.

The scope of the program is broad, addressing forensic and mental health services and policies that benefit criminal, civil, juvenile and family courts, law enforcement agencies, corrections personnel and people in their care and custody.

The Law and Psychiatry Program has a special association with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, which supports many of the program’s training and consultation services across the Commonwealth. Other program supporters and partners have included the National Institute of Mental Health, the MacArthur Foundation and other private research foundations, Massachusetts’ courts, various corrections and law enforcement agencies, and the Psychiatry Department’s Center for Mental Health Services Research.

The training efforts of the Program focus on its Forensic Psychiatry Fellow Program and its Forensic Psychology Post-doctoral Program. Although maintaining separate professional standards for accreditation purposes, these programs are fully blended with regard to their didactic curriculum and general requirements. Practicuum experience is provided in a variety of criminal and juvenile forensic settings, both within the University and in public sector correctional and court settings.

The forensic clinical settings in which Law and Psychiatry faculty provide services and training include Worcester State Hospital and Recovery Center’s Forensic Service and the University’s Child and Family Forensic Center. The core faculty also consults to and provides services in forensic settings nationwide, and trains persons in Massachusetts in law enforcement, the public defense bar, and the judiciary.

The research activities of Law and Psychiatry faculty cover a broad range of topics. Work supported in recent years by federal and foundation grants has included:

  • studies of risk and management of violence among persons with mental disorders and among juveniles
  • psychopathy in adults and juveniles
  • screening and assessment of mental health problems in juvenile justice
  • law enforcement practices in response to persons with mental disorders
  • competence of youth to stand trial
  • development of policy and therapeutic systems change in juvenile justice

The program is administered by a director of Law and Psychiatry, co-directors for Forensic Psychiatry and Forensic Psychology Training, and a director of Legal Studies.