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The Effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in Reducing Recidivism and Police Contact: A Systematic Review


Mental health courts were created to help criminal defendants who have a mental illness that significantly contributes to their criminal offense. The purpose of this systematic literature review is to assess the current evidence to address the question, “How effective are mental health courts in reducing recidivism and police contact?” Systematic literature searches of eight electronic databases were performed. A total of 2590 unique citations were identified. Of these, 20 studies were included in the final analysis. The results of this systematic review suggest there is some evidence to show that mental health courts help to reduce recidivism rates, but the effect on police contact is less clear. Results also suggest case managers or access to vocational and housing services may be important components of effective mental health courts.

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Data Availability

All the published papers used in this manuscript are publicly available. There are no data available.



Assertive community treatment


Forensic assertive community treatment


Mental health court


Peer review of electronic search strategies


Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses


Treatment as usual


Traditional criminal court


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Dr. Dewa gratefully acknowledges the support provided by her CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair. Any views expressed or errors are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the views of any of the funders.

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DL and CSD led the conception, design, data acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data. SB collaborated on the design and data acquisition. JB collaborated on the analysis and interpretation of the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carolyn S. Dewa.

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Loong, D., Bonato, S., Barnsley, J. et al. The Effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in Reducing Recidivism and Police Contact: A Systematic Review. Community Ment Health J 55, 1073–1098 (2019).

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  • Mental health courts
  • Recidivism
  • Rearrest
  • Justice system
  • Police contact
  • Mental illness