Mental Health Courts

Mental health courts are specialty criminal courts with a separate docket to deal with mentally ill persons, who are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated. Established by local court and criminal justice officials who recognized that traditional prosecution and punishment were not effective deterrents with this population, these courts divert mentally ill defendants into community treatment with services to reduce repeat offending, jail and prison crowding, court workload, and criminal justice costs. To participate, defendants must voluntarily agree to follow a treatment regimen and to be monitored. Proceedings are nonadversarial with participants—including judges, defense and prosecuting attorneys, criminal justice officers, mental health practitioners, and other service providers—functioning as a team to provide direction, encouragement, rewards, and sanctions to defendants.

Origins of Mental Health Courts

In the 1960s, shortly after ...

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