Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Participation in Mental Health Courts May Lessen Future Arrests

Criminal defendants who enter mental health court programs may perceive their treatment as significantly less voluntary than those not participating in such programs, but they appear to experience better outcomes, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

Woojae Han, M.S.W., of the University of Albany, and Allison Redlich, Ph.D., of George Mason University compared the treatment outcomes of 357 defendants in mental health courts with 384 people with mental health problems who had recently entered the legal system, examining the impact of community mental health and substance abuse treatment on recidivism at the time of court entry and six months later.

Analysis of interview data with the participants and national arrest data revealed significant increases in treatment motivation and use of community mental health and substance abuse services among participants in the mental health courts compared with the others; however, the perceived voluntariness of treatment decreased in the mental health court group. Increased medication compliance and mental health service use were associated with a significant decrease in arrests for the mental health court group, but not the control group, the authors reported.

“This finding suggests that treatment itself may not lead to meaningful criminal justice outcomes (for example, reduced arrests) but that treatment combined with court monitoring decreases arrests for offenders with mental illness,” the study authors wrote.

For more in Psychiatric News about mental health courts, see “Mental Health Courts: An Effective Alternative to Incarceration” and “MH Court Cuts Violence, Even in Felony Cases.”

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