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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 194206 Find in a Library
Title: Rethinking the Revolving Door: A Look at Mental Illness in the Courts
Author(s): Derek Denckla; Greg Berman
Corporate Author: Center for Court Innovation
United States of America
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 32
Sponsoring Agency: Center for Court Innovation
New York, NY 10018
State Justice Institute
Alexandria, VA 22314
Grant Number: SJI-oo-N-109
Sale Source: State Justice Institute
1650 King Street
Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22314
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study explores the challenges that defendants with mental illness pose in the courtroom.
Abstract: There is a consensus that criminal defendants with mental illness pose a major problem for courts in the United States. Standard case processing methods have proven to be neither efficient nor effective in dealing with these defendants. State court systems have begun to test new approaches in an effort to protect communities and prevent defendants with mental illness from returning to court over and over again at great cost. One of these approaches, mental health courts, has provoked a variety of responses from stakeholders in the criminal justice system and the mental health system. Offenders with mental illness and their families appear to differ from defense attorneys and mental health advocates about whether or not coerced treatment is appropriate. Offenders with mental illness report that their attorneys sometimes fail to pursue case outcomes that might involve the short-term loss of liberty but might also keep them out of the criminal justice system over the long term. Defenders and mental health advocates have responded with ambivalence to mental health courts – worrying over the possibility of increased state coercion while applauding the system’s interest in expanding access to treatment. Many prosecutors and judges seem willing to risk the possibility of failure to test whether treatment symptoms of mental illness will reduce recidivism and improve public safety. They have encountered some resistance from treatment providers who lack the capacity to serve this difficult population. Mental health courts will have to take a leadership role if they are to succeed. Mental health courts need to explore the connection between defendants’ symptoms of mental illness and their criminal conduct. They should evaluate whether coercion helps improve accountability by engaging defendants with mental illness in long-term treatment. Mental health courts need to tackle the question of mental health and criminal justice system integration of approaches to mental illness and improvement of services to defendants with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. 100 references
Main Term(s): Mentally ill offenders; Offender mental health services
Index Term(s): Civil commitment; Emotional disorders; Guilty but mentally ill; Mental defectives; Mental disorders; Mental health services; Offender advocates
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