Mental Health Courts

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A type of court that has raised popularity in the recent years is mental health courts (MHCs). Hemmens, Brody, and Spohn (2017) defined mental health courts as “a specialized court that involves collaboration between the criminal justice system and mental health agencies with the goal of providing needed services to mentally ill offenders”. This type of court targets defendants who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and need treatment rather than incarceration. Mental health courts are an effort to reduce the amount of people with mental illnesses in jails and prisons. Many people with mental illnesses will come into contact with the criminal justice system when what they truly need is effective treatment. The first mental health court…show more content…
There are many goals set forth for mental health courts. The main goal of a mental health court is to reduce recidivism and to also free up space in the criminal justice system. According to Almquist and Dodd (2009), mental health courts aim to improve public safety, reduce corrections costs, and to improve the quality of life of people with mental illnesses. Lack of accessible treatment could enable those people to reoffend. As stated by Spigel (2001), the court’s goals are to: create effective interactions between the criminal justice and mental health systems, balance the defendants’ rights, reduce mentally ill defendants’ contact with the criminal justice system, and monitor the delivery and outcome of services and treatment. A main concern for the courts is that they can give people a better quality of life with treatment. They want to ensure that mentally ill defendants do not languish in jail solely because of the actions their condition caused (Spigel,…show more content…
This study’s goal was to compare the recidivism rates of mental health court defendants and traditional criminal court defendants. The mental health court that they observed was in Southeastern United States. This court hears cases of persons with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders (Marlee & Hiday, 2006). The experimental group participants in this study were 82 people who were eligible and chose to participate in MHC. The group they were compared to were 183 people in traditional criminal court in the same county. What were they measuring? Recidivism. Recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. They measured this in two ways. The first was to get data on the number of new arrests occurring during the twelve months after their entry into MHC or TCC. The second was a scale indicating recidivism severity. They collected data on traffic citations, misdemeanors, and felonies. They put into perspective the court type, completion status, prior criminal record, jail time served in prior year, severity of key arrest offense, and demographics of the defendant. According to Marlee and Hiday (2006), mental health courts are effective in reducing recidivism compared to traditional criminal courts. Mental health court defendants had a re-arrest rate about half of defendants in traditional criminal

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