University of Massachusetts Medical School professor honored for contributions to forensic psychiatry and psychology 

May 19, 2005 

WORCESTER, Mass. — University of Massachusetts Medical School Professor Thomas Grisso, PhD, is the recipient of the 2005 Isaac Ray Award from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Presented by the APA in recognition of outstanding contributions to forensic psychiatry and the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence, the Isaac Ray Award is the APA’s highest recognition for distinguished careers in forensic mental health. Isaac Ray, MD, was one of the founders of the American Psychiatric Association in 1844, and is considered the father of forensic psychiatry in America. Dr. Grisso will receive the award at the organization’s national meeting taking place May 21-26 in Atlanta.

Professor of psychiatry, coordinator of the Law and Psychiatry Program, and director of the Law and Mental Health Core of the Center for Mental Health Services Research at UMMS, Grisso is one of the nation’s leading researchers in forensic psychology. His work ranges from studies of decision-making capacity among persons with mental illness to the incidence of mental disorders among youths who are referred to the juvenile justice system.

Grisso, who early in his career decided to focus on the policies and systems that impact clinical treatment, explained that, "I diagnose and treat the systems that treat the patient." He is honored by the APA’s recognition for the full range of his work, spanning both the fields of psychiatry and psychology, and the generations from child to adult. "I am fascinated by the translation of law to psychiatry and psychology. Each discipline describes people differently. We need to translate both ways for both legal and mental health providers to use on behalf of their clients’ needs and rights."

Grisso has contributed significantly to the contemporary body of knowledge on psychiatry, psychology and the law. His 1986 book Evaluating Competencies: Forensic Assessments and Instruments became a landmark, classic text in forensic mental health research and practice. In 2004 he published Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Offenders with Mental Disorders to help government administrators, judges, lawyers and juvenile justice policy makers, as well as clinicians and other mental health professionals, chart a rational course for addressing the mental health needs of mentally ill, incarcerated youth.

Grisso received his PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Arizona in 1969. In 1987 he was recruited to UMMS from the faculty of St. Louis University by Paul S. Appelbaum, MD, the A. F. Zeleznik Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at UMMS, to help establish the school’s then-fledgling, now sought-after post-doctoral Law and Psychiatry Program. Grisso’s numerous prior honors include the American Academy of Forensic Psychology’s 1987 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Forensic Psychology, the American Psychological Association’s 1995 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy, and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1998. His research has been funded by, among others, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


The  American Psychiatric Association works to ensure humane care and effective treatment for all persons with mental disorders. Founded in 1844 and now representing nearly 36,000 members worldwide, the APA continues its long tradition of supporting the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, advocating for mental health professionals and patients alike.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $173 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit . 

Contact: Sandra Gray, 508-856-2000,