Risks, Benefits, and Complexities: Reporting Race and Ethnicity in Forensic Mental Health Reports

Christina L. Riggs Romainea and Antoinette Kavanaughb
aWheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts, USA; bPrivate Practice, Chicago, Illinois, USA

International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 

Volume 18, 2019 – Issue 2

In legal systems with complex disparities and potential biases, the reporting of the evaluee’s race or ethnicity (ERE) in the written forensic mental health report (FMHR) has both risks and benefits, yet few resources provide guidance on when and how to include this information. Available information suggests current practice in reporting ERE varies widely, and few recommendations and best practices guidelines exist. This article examines the available information and explores reasons for and against including ERE in the FMHR, examining how each fits with established principles of assessment. Benefits and potential consequences of including ERE, including implicit bias, the potential for stereotype threat and the problems with colorblind approaches, are discussed. Available research suggests carefully considered practice is required and decisions to include ERE should be based on a culturally competent weighing of relevance.

Antoinette Kavanaugh will be presenting on August 24 at the Law and Mental Health Series presented by the University of New Mexico. The August flyer has not yet been posted, but to get on the mailing list for that lecture series, send an email to HSC-LawMentalHealth@salud.unm.edu

Published by Ohio Forensic Evaluation Center Directors Association

We offer Ohio's Courts of Common Pleas and the other criminal justice and mental health related services in our regions evidence-based, expertly crafted mental health opinions, and promote the ideals of objectivity and excellence in all forensic evaluation opinions proffered. We strive to promote this standard through the work of our centers and to our colleagues and consultants outside of our centers through training and supervision. Further, we never fail to consider the community's safety, as well as the individual's need for the most clinically appropriate interventions, as we are crafting these opinions and conducting our training. Additionally, we serve our colleagues in the state hospitals, the prison system and the state and county Mental Health and Addiction Services Boards, Developmental Disability Boards, Probation Departments and Municipal Courts to find effective solutions to many of our risk of violence and community mental health safety issues. We are proud to serve the courts of Ohio, and appreciate the ongoing recognition we receive for our work.

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