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.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
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.
Anestis, J. C., & Carbonell, J. L. (2014). Stopping the revolving door: effectiveness of mental health court in reducing recidivism by mentally ill offenders. Psychiatric Services, 65(9), 1105–1112. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201300305.
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.
Blitz, C. L., Wolff, N., & Shi, J. (2008). Physical victimization in prison: the role of mental illness. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 31(5), 385–393. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2008.08.005.
Burns, P. J., Hiday, V. A., & Ray, B. (2012). Effectiveness 2 years postexit of a recently established mental health court. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(2), 189–208. doi:10.1177/0002764212465416.
Callahan, L., Steadman, H. J., Tillman, S., & Vesselinov, R. (2013). A multi-site study of the use of sanctions and incentives in mental health courts. Law and Human Behavior, 37(1), 1–9. doi:10.1037/h0093989.
Christy, A., Poythress, N. G., Boothroyd, R. A., Petrila, J., & Mehra, S. (2005). Evaluating the efficiency and community safety goals of the Broward County mental health court. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 23(2), 227–243. doi:10.1002/bsl.647.
Council of State Governments Justice Center. (2016). Mental health courts. Retrieved from https://csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health-court-project/.
Dirks-Linhorst, P. A., & Linhorst, D. M. (2010). Recidivism outcomes for suburban mental health court defendants. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(1), 76–91. doi:10.1007/s12103-010-9092-0.
Erickson, S. K., Campbell, A., & Lamberti, J. S. (2006). Variations in mental health courts: Challenges, opportunities, and a call for caution. Community Mental Health Journal, 42(4), 335–344. doi:10.1007/s10597-006-9046-7.
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.
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.
Herinckx, H. A., Swart, S. C., Ama, S. M., Dolezal, C. D., & King, S. (2005). Rearrest and linkage to mental health services among clients of the Clark County mental health court program. Psychiatric Services, 56(7), 853–857. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.56.7.853.
Hiday, V. A., & Ray, B. (2010). Arrests two years after exiting a well-established mental health court. Psychiatric Services, 61(5), 463–468. doi:10.1176/ps.2010.61.5.463.
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.
Lowder, E. M., Desmarais, S. L., & Baucom, D. J. (2016). Recidivism following mental health court exit: between and within-group comparisons. Law and Human Behavior, 40(2), 118–127. doi:10.1037/lhb0000168.
McNiel, D. E., & Binder, R. L. (2007). Effectiveness of a mental health court in reducing criminal recidivism and violence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(9), 1395–1403. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.06101664.
McVey, C. (2001). Coordinating effective health and mental health continuity of care. Corrections Today, 63(5), 58–62.
Moore, M. E., & Hiday, V. A. (2007). Mental health court outcomes: a comparison of re-arrest and re-arrest severity between mental health court and traditional court participants. Law and Human Behavior, 30(6), 659–674. doi:10.1007/s10979-006-9061-9.
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.
Steadman, H. J., Redlich, A. D., Griffin, P., Petrila, J., & Monahan, J. (2005). From referral to disposition: case processing in seven mental health courts. Behavioral Sciences & the law, 23(2), 215–226. doi:10.1002/bsl.641.
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.
Trupin, E., & Richards, H. (2003). Seattle's mental health courts: early indicators of effectiveness. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 26(1), 33–53. doi:10.1016/s0160-2527(02)00202-9.
Valdiserri, E. V., Carroll, K. R., & Hartl, A. J. (1986). A study of offenses committed by psychotic inmates in a county jail. Psychiatric Services, 37(2), 163–166. doi:10.1176/ps.37.2.163.
White, M. C., Chafetz, L., Collins-Bride, G., & Nickens, J. (2006). History of arrest, incarceration and victimization in community-based severely mentally ill. Journal of Community Health, 31(2), 123–135. doi:10.1007/s10900-005-9005-1.
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.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Costopoulos, J.S., Wellman, B.L. The Effectiveness of One Mental Health Court: Overcoming Criminal History. Psychol. Inj. and Law 10, 254–263 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12207-017-9290-x