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The Effectiveness of One Mental Health Court: Overcoming Criminal History

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Julie S. Costopoulos.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Appendix I

Appendix I

Table 3 Arrest coding

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Costopoulos, J.S., Wellman, B.L. The Effectiveness of One Mental Health Court: Overcoming Criminal History. Psychol. Inj. and Law 10, 254–263 (2017).

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