Academic journal article Justice System Journal

Putting Therapeutic Jurisprudence into Practice: The Growth, Operations, and Effectiveness of Mental Health Court*

Academic journal article Justice System Journal

Putting Therapeutic Jurisprudence into Practice: The Growth, Operations, and Effectiveness of Mental Health Court*

Article excerpt

This article focuses on a court innovation for criminally involved people who are afflicted with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. It describes a recently developed strategy for dealing with the challenges of working with mentally ill individuals during the pre- and post-adjudication stages of the criminal justice process: mental health court (MHC). The article also discusses the historical and legal underpinnings of these courts, their growth, and the defining elements and operations of the earliest MHCs, which are best viewed as evolving models of practice. Finally, the article reviews studies of MHC operations and effectiveness and suggests future directions for MHCs.

Fundamental changes in mental health laws and policies have brought criminal justice professionals into contact with the seriously mentally ill at every stage of the criminal justice process. Police arrest people with serious mental illnesses (PSMI) because few other options are readily available to handle their disruptive public behavior or to obtain for them much-needed treatment or housing (Teplin, 2000). Jail and prison administrators often struggle to treat and protect the mentally ill, judges grapple with limited sentencing alternatives for PSMI who fall outside of specific forensic categories (e.g., guilty but mentally ill), and probation and parole officers scramble to obtain scarce community services and treatments for PSMI and attempt to fit them into standard correctional programs or to monitor them with traditional case management strategies (Lurigio and Swartz, 2000). When the mentally ill are sentenced to community supervision, their disorders complicate and impede their ability to comply with the conditions of release and compound the difficulties of prisoner reentry (Council of State and Local Governments, 2002).

Other PSMI enter the criminal justice system because they have engaged in serious criminal behavior that is often - but certainly not always - related to their untreated psychiatric and substance-use disorders. Indeed, the growth of specialized police and diversionary programs that address low-level criminal behavior (e.g., disorderly conduct) by deflecting the mentally ill away from the criminal justice system and into the mental health system has likely reduced the actual criminalization of the mentally ill (Lurigio, Smith, and Harris, in press). Nevertheless, the lack of accessible and affordable mental health care in this country has contributed to the transinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, who are more likely to receive psychiatric treatment in a jail or prison than in a hospital (Council of State Governments, 2002; Lamberti, 2007).

PSMI often reside in highly criminogenic and impoverished environments that exert pressures on them to engage in criminal behaviors. The factors that characterize these environments (e.g., joblessness, gang influences, failed educational systems, and residential instability) also affect poor persons with no serious mental illness (Sliver, Mulvey, and Swanson, 2002). Draine et al. (2002) suggest that PSMI have many types of problems because of the social settings or contexts in which they typically live (poor and disadvantaged communities). Homelessness, crime, undereducation, and unemployment are endemic to such neighborhoods. A large percentage of poor persons experience these difficulties - irrespective of whether they have mental illness or not - which render them more susceptible to criminal activities and victimization (Lamberti, 2007).

This article describes a recently developed - but fast-growing - strategy for dealing with the challenges of PSMI during the pre- and post-adjudication stages of the criminal justice process: mental health court (MHC). This court innovation is for criminally involved individuals who are afflicted with serious Axis I diagnoses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression - chronic brain diseases that cause extreme distress and interfere with social and emotional adjustment. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.