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JCOM Abstract

J Clin Outcomes Manage 
2012 Aug;19(8):365-373
Mental health courts: a judicial innovation with clinical and public safety implications
Petrila J

Abstract Objective: To describe the characteristics of mental health courts and review the available research on their impact. Methods: Review of the literature. Results: The number of people with mental illnesses entering the criminal justice system, and the complexity of their needs, has become a major social policy issue in multiple jurisdictions. There have been a variety of efforts to divert people into treatment, with the hope that better service access and reduced criminal recidivism will result. Mental health courts are one part of these larger diversion efforts. This paper describes mental health courts in the broader context of diversion, discusses their core characteristics, and reviews the current research on the success of the courts in their primary goals of rapidly identifying and diverting eligible defendants into treatment, creating court processes that defendants experience as less coercive than traditional criminal court, increasing access to services and reducing recidivism, and doing so in a cost-efficient manner. Conclusion: Accumulating research suggests that mental health courts have been generally successful at meeting their goals compared with outcomes achieved by traditional criminal courts, but there is still room for improvement.

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