Success in the Media

Mental Health Courts Lower Recidivism

Gentlereaders:  The research continues the generally positive results from speciality courts focusing on an array of criminal justice issues like drugs, probation violations, prisoner reentry and mental health issues.  There is a point where the Department of Justice should take a harder look as to why so many court-related programs are claiming success. In all probability, the principle reason is bringing all facets of the criminal justice system together and focusing on what it takes for offenders to do well in the community. Courts (i.e., strong-willed judges) seem uniquely suited for this role.

Crime in America.Net.

The Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense recently released a report detailing their efforts to evaluate mental health public defenders (MHPDs) and mental health courts (MH courts).

Both of these criminal justice interventions create means through which a contact with the justice system can be used to address therapeutic needs of people with mental illness.

It was hypothesized that mental health courts would have a positive impact on four major outcomes including predisposition jail days, mental health treatment engagement, case disposition and recidivism.

Results are based on all individuals who enrolled in the program. While it was hypothesized that mental health court participants would be detained fewer days prior to being released on bond, the examination of pre‐trial jail days found no statistically significant differences.

That is, participants in each of the mental health courts evaluated were released from detention at approximately the same time as otherwise identical non‐participants.

Since mental health courts are designed to link offenders to care and other services, it was therefore expected that participants would show long‐term benefits of increased treatment engagement after leaving the program.

The results showed significant increases in long‐term treatment engagements for all diagnoses. When case disposition was examined, large, statistically significant reductions in the chance of a guilty verdict were observed for participants in both Dallas and Tarrant County mental health courts.

Finally, the results show that, as desired, six months after case disposition, people represented by the mental health public defender experienced significantly lower rates of recidivism than otherwise identical people who were not in the program.

Additionally, recidivism continued to be suppressed up to 18 months after case disposition for defendants with schizophrenia.

The report, Representing the Mentally Ill Offender: An Evaluation of Advocacy Alternatives, is available at:


For information on additional- successful correctional programs, see


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