The Effectiveness of One Mental Health Court: Overcoming Criminal History
- 496 Downloads
The Mental Health Court (MHC) allows for defendants with mental illness to receive community-based treatment while helping to avoid further involvement in the criminal justice system. Studies have demonstrated varying degrees of success for participants’ rearrest rate and severity while in the community. The role of prior criminal behavior on success in MHC, and for up to 3 years after release from MHC, was examined. Data was gathered on 118 participants in MHC, 80 of which graduated, and 38 who were dismissed without graduating. Arrests were coded prior to entering MHC and at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years after release. Recidivism included arrest severity, offense type, and quantity of offenses. Significantly fewer defendants who completed MHC were rearrested at all windows of time after release. Completing MHC also predicted living more days free without rearrest. Criminal history was not consistently predictive of recidivism when failing MHC was included in the model. The severity of the charges when rearrested was predicted only by completing MHC, not by criminal history. The greater the amount of days spent in MHC was associated with rearrests for lesser crime types (such as property offenses) at 3 years for individuals who did not complete MHC. These results suggest that participation in MHC was able to reduce recidivism regardless of varying severity of criminal history. The impact of MHC was so great that length of participation reduced severity of offense type after 3 years even for those who ultimately did not complete the requirements.
KeywordsMental health court Recidivism Mentally ill offenders Therapeutic court
The authors would like to thank the FIT Forensic Clinical Research Team for their assistance. The assistance of Dr. Barry Hensel and Tanya Johnson at Circles of Care, Blaise Trettis, Wayne Holmes, and Judge Cathleen Clarke was essential to the completion of this project.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Almquist, L., & Dodd, E. (2009). Mental health courts: a guide to research informed policy and practice. Retrieved from https://www.bja.gov/Publications/CSG_MHC_Research.pdf.
- American Association of Community Psychiatrists. (1999). Position statement of the AACP on the mentally ill behind bars. American Association of Community Psychiatrists Newsletter, 13(2), 1–4 Retrieved from http://psychnews.org/pnews/99-12-03/Positions.htm.
- Binswanger, I. A., Nowels, C., Corsi, K. F., Long, J., Booth, R. E., Kutner, J., & Steiner, J. F. (2011). “From the prison door right to the sidewalk, everything went downhill,” a qualitative study of the health experiences of recently released inmates. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 34(4), 249–255. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2011.07.002.
- Council of State Governments Justice Center. (2016). Mental health courts. Retrieved from https://csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health-court-project/.
- Gilmartin, R. (1997). Personal narrative and the social reconstruction of the lives of former psychiatric patients. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 24(2), 77–102 Retrieved from http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2412&context=jssw#page=80.Google Scholar
- Glaze, L. E., & James, D. J. (2006). Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates (report no. NCJ 213600). PsycEXTRA Database Record. doi: 10.1037/e557002006-001.
- Lavine, A., Lozowski, B., Powell, H., Sivillo, M., & Traeger, K. (2001). Issues in Maryland sentencing—the impact of alternative sanctions on prison populations. Retrieved from http://www.sentencing.nj.gov/downloads/pdf/articles/alternative2.pdf.
- McVey, C. (2001). Coordinating effective health and mental health continuity of care. Corrections Today, 63(5), 58–62.Google Scholar
- Ridgely, S., Engberg, J., Greenburg, M. D., Turner, S., DeMartini, C., & Dembosky, J. W. (2007). Justice, treatment, and cost: an evaluation of the fiscal impact of Allegheny county mental health court. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi: 10.1037/e532842010-001.
- The Pulitzer Prizes. (2016). 2016 Pulitzer Prizes-Journalism. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved from http://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-year/2016.
- Townsend, J. M., & Rakfeldt, J. (1985). Hospitalization and first-contact mental patients: stigma and changes in self-concept. Research in Community & Mental Health. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1987-02241-001.