The Supreme Court in the United States of America established the minimal standards for proficiency to standard trial in Dusky v. United States in 1960. In this case, it was held that the courts are essential to govern whether a litigant has enough present potential to consult with their attorney. It should be at a sensible degree of judicious understanding. It highlighted further the significance of confirming whether a person has a logical and authentic knowledge of the happenings against the person (Luban, 2018). The author also suggested that the Dusky standard emphasizes the mental and cognitive ability to understand a couple with behavioral decision-making ability. It is hence essential to confer with counsel and not merely the capacity to engage in astute. It is also crucial to note that the ability to stand trial is particularly significant to evidence-based practices due to its prevalence.
I do not believe that there exists a better way of assessing competency. This is the case because other cognitive-based assessment systems often aim at analyzing whether an individual can or cannot perform particular tasks or how well they can perform them. They would assess for cognitive impairment, including learning and contemplating new things, concentration levels, mental disorders, and decision-making ability. Moreover, mood changes, difficulty in recognizing people, and loss of memory will also be assessed.
To support competency conclusions, I will rely on factors such as the ability to effectively complete an assigned task and their use of skills and overall knowledge while undertaking the task in question. Apart from this, I will also evaluate the individual’s communication. Here, different aspects will be assessed, including listening and organizing clarity of communication and retaining objective information. Indeed, it is of great importance that a defendant is able to assist their own defense to be deemed competent because it is only through it that they can be determined that they are capable of providing relevant and factual information in their case. In other words, it aids in determining whether or not the defendant is competent.
The act of putting individuals in mental health institutions without explaining to them the reasoning behind it or how it will be different from incarcerating them is problematic because an individual with poor mental health cannot and should not be incarcerated without due process. Domino et al. (2019) denote that incarceration is strictly only for individuals who have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be mentally stable. On the other hand, mental health institutions are explicitly for individuals who do not possess the mental capacity to acknowledge the nature and magnitude of the crimes of which they have conducted.
Apart from mental health, specific sectors of the population may be judged incompetent over others due to old age, children (minors), and chronic diseases. According to Enßle and Helbrecht (2021), old age is associated with many problems ranging from social, physical, emotional, and cognitive issues, such as forgetfulness. In this connection, the elderly are considered to be more incompetent than other groups of the population. Aside from this, Parkin et al. (2017) argue that minors (individuals aged less than 16 years old) are a special consideration in the Mental Capacity Act because they cannot make rational decisions.
Domino, M. E., Gertner, A., Grabert, B., Cuddeback, G. S., Childers, T., & Morrissey, J. P. (2019). Do timely mental health services reduce re‐incarceration among prison releasees with severe mental illness?. Health Services Research, 54(3), 592-602. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.13128
Enßle, F., & Helbrecht, I. (2021). Understanding diversity in later life through images of old age. Ageing & Society, 41(10), 2396-2415. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X20000379
Parkin, E., Long, R., & Bate, A. (2017). Children and young people’s mental health: Policy, services, funding, and education. House of Commons Library.
Luban, D. (2018). Self-Representation, access to justice, and the quality of counsel: A comment on Rabeea Assy’s injustice in person: The right of self-representation. Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies, 17(1), 46-63.