Forensics: Mentally Disordered Offenders Program (MDO)

What is the MDO Program?

The Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) law applies only to prisoners whose crimes were committed on or after January 1, 1986. The statutes governing the MDO program are contained in Penal Code (PC) Sections 2960-2981. The law requires that a prisoner who meets six specific MDO criteria (listed below), shall be ordered by the Board of Prison Hearings (BPH) to be treated by the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) as a condition of parole. An MDO patient is a parolee who meets the criteria and is paroled on the condition that he or she receives DSH treatment.

The intent of the MDO law is to increase public safety. The goal of the Department of State Hospitals is to achieve this public protection through the provision of a safe and effective system of inpatient and outpatient services for Mentally Disordered Offenders.

Treatment for MDO patients begins in a state hospital. When CONREP and the hospital treatment team believe a patient can be safely and effectively treated on an outpatient basis, DSH will recommend transfer to outpatient treatment in CONREP. The patient's parole and treatment by DSH will be reviewed by the BPT every year. The patient may remain in the MDO treatment program, either in the hospital or in CONREP, throughout his time on parole, depending on his progress. Parolees are generally required to remain on parole for three years. However, up to another 12 months can be added when parole violations result in parole revocations. At the end of parole, the patient may be civilly committed to further periods of DSH treatment, if the court finds that the patient's mental disorder still meets certain criteria.

Criteria for Certification as an MDO patient:

The BPT can impose mental health treatment as a condition of parole when it finds that the inmate/parolee meets the following criteria:

  1. The prisoner has a severe mental disorder; *
  2. The prisoner used force or violence or caused serious bodily injury in one of the prisoner's commitment crimes;
  3. The severe mental disorder was one of the causes of or was an aggravating factor in the commission of the crime for which the prisoner was sentenced to prison; *
  4. The prisoner's "severe mental disorder is not in remission" or "cannot be kept in remission without treatment" *
  5. The prisoner had been in treatment for the severe mental disorder for ninety (90) days or more within the year prior to The prisoner's parole or release; and
  6. As a result of the severe mental disorder, the prisoner represents a "substantial danger of physical harm to others".