Mental Health Courts

Decriminalizing the Mentally Ill

Overview

The provision of mental health care services throughout most of North America, including Canada, has witnessed a steady decline, beginning with the deinstitutionalization movement in the latter half of the 20th century. As a result, a criminalization of mental illness has occurred. Accused with mental disorders languish in detention centres and correctional facilities, where they lack much-needed treatment.

Mental health courts are a response to this reality. In the typical American paradigm, some accused can avoid conviction and sentence through successful participation in a treatment program overseen by the mental health court team. These accused are diverted back into the civil mental health care system. The Canadian system has been much broader in focus. The primary objectives of the courts are to expeditiously assess and treat mentally disordered accused and to slow down the "revolving door."

Mental health courts began as grassroots initiatives in the mid-1990s. One of the first known programs, the "Diversion of Mentally Disordered Accused," was created in Toronto as part of the Crown Policy Manual in 1994. In addition to this program, a mental health court was created to deal with a broader range of issues. These specialty courts have been a success and now number in excess of one hundred in North America alone.

In writing this book, the authors have sought to assist two groups of professionals involved with these courts—mental health care service providers and the various criminal justice professionals.

Part I of this book is an overview of the historical and theoretical foundations underlying the mental health court movement. Part II offers a thorough description of a typical mental health court in operation. It describes the role of each mental health court team member and provides guidance to those seeking to establish a mental health court. Part III analyzes the successes and failures of these courts and ends with a critical look at the long-term desirability of mental health courts.

Reviews

"This is a practical book, of immediate use to its principal intended audience: those working in mental health court and diversion programs in Canada.... [The] relationship of the criminal justice and mental health systems, and the development of different models of mental health courts, are deftly discussed in the interdisciplinary and theoretical context of the therapeutic jurisprudence perspective. In that respect the book constitutes a major contribution to the therapeutic jurisprudence literature, and its discussion of the Canadian and comparative contexts will be of great interest to the legal and mental health communities in many jurisdictions. I am confident that it will soon take its place as a leading resource both in Canada and internationally."

David B. Wexler, Lyons Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

PART I: THE EMERGENCE OF MENTAL HEALTH COURTS
Chapter 2: Historical Foundations
Chapter 3: Theoretical Foundations: Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Problem Solving Courts

PART II: THE OPERATION OF A MENTAL HEALTH COURT
Chapter 4: The Operation and Functioning of a Mental Health Court
Chapter 5: The Role of a Mental Health Practitioner in a Mental Health Court
Chapter 6: Establishing a Mental Health Court

PART III: THE SUCCESS OF MENTAL HEALTH COURTS AND THEIR FUTURE
Chapter 7: Efficacy of Mental Health Courts
Chapter 8: The Future of Mental Health Courts and the Responsible Use of Resources
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Table of Cases
Index

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