Mental Health Court System

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In the 1970’s, the U.S. government began enacting policies that deinstitutionalized mental health facilities all across the country. Funds from the states were supposed to be redirected to local communities so that they could take care of the needs of the mentally ill. However, these funds were never transferred and thus local communities did not have the resources to take care of their mentally ill residents (Sheth 2009). Likewise, instead of responding to this deinstitutionalization by creating more mental health programs, many correctional facilities did the opposite. Steinberg and Mills state that California shifted its focus towards incarceration and away from community based mental health programs. California was one of the first states …show more content…
One of these programs is the mental health court. Unlike traditional courts, mental health courts focus on offering solutions for mentally ill offenders instead of evaluating their culpability. In the mental health court system, officials determine which offenders should participate through mental health examinations and evaluations and put them in a judicially supervised therapy program created by a group of mental health professionals and court staff. Additionally, when an offender finishes the program successfully, mental health courts may drop an alleged charge or change the original sentence (Rossman et al. 2012). Although the criminal justice system has this great program to help decrease the subpar way in which mentally ill inmates are treated, the mental health courts are not used as often as they should be and not as many inmates have access to them. One reason for this is that a significant amount of offenders with mental illnesses are not eligible for diversionary programs at the pretrial or adjudication stage for many different reasons, such as type of crime or jurisdiction. Therefore, they are instead taken to a correctional facility and if they are not given sufficient mental health treatment or release planning while incarcerated, their possibility for recidivism may increase because they could fall back into the cycle of incarceration (Baillargeon et al. 2009; MallikKane and Visher 2008; Walters 2005). The strict rules and regulations regarding mental health courts makes it difficult for those who truly need it, to have access to it. These stringent rules are aggravating the current problem, not resolving it. Sadly, life after incarceration is not much better. Kim, Becker-Cohen and Serakos state that we do not give mentally ill inmates who are in desperate need of treatment