Court Programs

  • Jada Hector
  • David Khey


The dawn of widespread court intervention for mental health concerns truly began with the drug court concept developed in Dade (now Miami-Dade) County, Florida, at the conclusion of the 1980s in direct response to Miami’s infamous drug scene. The darker aspects of popular culture depictions of drugs impact on Miami—Scarface, Cocaine Cowboys, and Miami Vice, to name a few—were in plain view on a daily basis for local judges, public defenders, and prosecutors. Specifically, these key players grew wary of witnessing the same offenders appear before the court under the same or incredibly similar circumstances, sparking the concept of drug court (Goldkamp & Weiland, 1993). Later named a problem-solving court, specialty court, or therapeutic court, the innovation of drug court centers on its holistic approach of combining aspects of treatment, providing general care by leveraging community resources (e.g., housing, health care, food banks, transportation, etc.), and judicial oversight to enable its participants a chance to break the drug-crime-criminal justice pattern in their lives (Carey, Mackin, & Finigan, 2012). In years to come, this concept was reinforced and fine-tuned with emerging evidence-based practices to ensure the lasting success and pro-social gains of participants, and a vast array of research would be published to support the successes of a fully operational drug court steeped in evidence-based practices (Gottfredson, Najaka, & Kearley, 2003; Rossman & Zweig, 2012; Wilson, Mitchell, & MacKenzie, 2006). Soon, this model would be redeveloped to cater to individuals with the mental health-(drugs)-crime-criminal justice pattern in their lives—called mental health court or behavioral health court. These specialty courts lie at the forefront of local court innovations to intervene on behalf of individuals with mental illness being processed by the criminal justice system.


Court intervention Reentry Recidivism Reducing recidivism Drug court Specialty court Program fidelity Special populations Evidence-based practices Revocation 


  1. Adult Drug Court Research to Practice Initiative. (2017). Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  2. Brennan, P, Battaglia, M., & Jones, G. (Producers). (2011 – current). Last Shot with Judge Gunn. (Television Series). Fayetteville, AK: Trifecta Entertainment. Retrieved from
  3. Bureau of Justice Assistance. (2000). Emerging judicial strategies for the mentally ill in the criminal caseload: Mental health courts in Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, San Bernardino, and Anchorage. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from
  4. Bureau of Justice Assistance. (2007). Improving responses to people with mental illnesses: The essential elements of a mental health court. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from
  5. Carey, S. M., Mackin, J. R., & Finigan, M. W. (2012). What works? The ten key components of drug court: Research-based best practices. Drug Court Review, 8(1), 6–42.Google Scholar
  6. Council of State Governments Justice Center. (2007). Improving responses to people with mental illness: The essential elements of a mental health court. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  7. Drug Policy Alliance. (2011). Drug courts are not the answer: Toward a health-centered approach to drug use. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  8. Eckholm, E. (2008). Courts give addicts a chance to straighten out. The New York Times, Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  9. Festinger, D. S., Dugosh, K. L., & Marlowe, D. (2015). Improving outcomes for low-risk/low-need drug court clients: Life in the fast lane. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 146, e276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. GAINS Center (1999). Medicaid benefits for jail detainees with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Prepared by Sherman, R. Delmar, NY: The National GAINS Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  11. Goldkamp, J. S., & Weiland, D. (1993). Assessing the impact of Dade County’s felony drug court: Final report. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  12. Gottfredson, D. C., Najaka, S. S., & Kearley, B. (2003). Effectiveness of drug treatment courts: Evidence from a randomized trial. Criminology & Public Policy, 2(2), 171–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Halper, E. (2014). Drug courts, meant to aid addicts, now a battlefield of pot politics. LA Times.
  14. Justice for Vets. (2017). Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  15. Kambam, P., & Guyer, M. (2006). Mental illness and revocation of restricted probation. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 35(1), 120–122.Google Scholar
  16. Knudsen, K. J., & Wingenfeld, S. (2016). A specialized treatment court for veterans with trauma exposure: Implications for the field. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(2), 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lowenkamp, C. T., Holsinger, A. M., & Latessa, E. J. (2005). Are drug courts effective? A meta-analytic review. Journal of Community Corrections, Fall, 5, 28.Google Scholar
  18. Marlowe, D. B. (2010). Research update on adult drug courts. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  19. Matthews, A. R. (1970). Mental Disability and the Criminal Justice System. Chicago: American Bar Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miller, J. M., & Khey, D. N. (2016). An implementation and process evaluation of the louisiana 22nd judicial district’s behavioral health court. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(1), 124–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Moore, M. E., & Hiday, V. A. (2006). 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Morse, D. S., Cerulli, C., Bedell, P., Wilson, J. L., Thomas, K., Mittal, M., et al. (2014). Meeting health and psychological needs of women in drug treatment court. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46(2), 150–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. National Association of Drug Court Professionals. (2017).
  25. National Institute of Justice. (2017). Drug courts. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  26. Pierret, A. (2016). Mental health court upset with potential cuts. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  27. Reyes, J. M. (2017). Drug, mental health courts merged in New Castle County. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  28. Rossman, S. B., & Zweig, J. M. (2012). The multisite adult drug court evaluation. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  29. Schneider, R. D. (2010). Mental health courts and diversion programs: A global survey. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 33(4), 201–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Steadman, H. J., Morris, S. M., & Dennis, D. L. (1995). The diversion of mentally ill persons from jails to community-based services: A profile of programs. American Journal of Public Health, 85(12), 1630–1635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stettin, B., Frese, F. J., & Lamb, H. R. (2013). Mental health diversion practices: A survey of the states. Arlington, VA: Treatment Advocacy Center.Google Scholar
  32. Tanielian, T., Jaycox, L.H., Schell, T.L., Marshall, G.N., Burnam, M.A., Eibner, C., Karney, B., Meredith, L.S., Ringel, J.S., & Vaiana, M.E. (2008). Invisible wounds of war: Summary and recommendations for addressing psychological and cognitive injuries. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  33. Tiger, R. (2012). Judging Addicts: Drug Courts and Coercion in the Justice System. New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walker, M. (2017). Mental health court money left out of state budget. Argus Leader. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  35. Wilson, D. B., Mitchell, O., & MacKenzie, D. L. (2006). A systematic review of drug court effects on recidivism. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2(4), 459–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jada Hector
    • 1
  • David Khey
    • 2
  1. 1.New OrleansUSA
  2. 2.University of LouisianaLafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations