Bronx (NY) Mental Health Court Doesn’t Work

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Bronx (NY) Mental Health Court Doesn’t Work

Our notes: Specialty courts are popping up throughout the country and that’s good; the criminal justice system is trying to find ways of dealing with people who need to be diverted.

Just note that there are some who claim too much success from specialty courts. Over promising is not helping the effort to find new and unique ways of lessening our dependence on formal adjudication.

Program Summary

This is a program that seeks to divert mentally ill, misdemeanor and felony adult offenders out of the justice system and into treatment. The goals of the diversion program are to ensure participants receive treatment for their mental disorders and do not have future contact with the justice system. The program is rated No Effects. Overall, there was no significant impact on re-arrests or re-convictions.

Program Goals

The Bronx Mental Health Court in New York is a program that seeks to divert mentally ill, misdemeanor and felony adult offenders out of the justice system and into treatment. The goals of the diversion program are to ensure participants receive treatment for their mental disorders and avoid future contact with the justice system. During the program, participants receive court monitoring, case management, and treatment services.
 
Target Population/Eligibility

To be eligible for the Bronx Mental Health Court, participants must be nonviolent offenders with serious mental illness who are 16 years or older. Most often, participants have Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) Axis–I disorders, including bipolar disorder and major depression. The court also takes the risk for future violence into consideration when deciding whether to accept an individual into the program. Those who are unstable or require hospitalization are not eligible to participate.

The Bronx Mental Health Court accepts felony and misdemeanor offenders unless they have committed murder, sex offenses, and/or arson. The program does not require that the conviction offense be related to the individual’s mental illness. Referrals for the program can come from prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, family members, community providers, jail mental health staff, probation officers, “730” competency hearings, other case management or diversion programs, or from the defendants themselves. Referrals are screened with a seven-question form developed by the Bronx Mental Health Court. All referrals are processed by the supervising case manager and assigned a pre-placement case manager who then screens them for clinical eligibility through the use of myriad measures, including a biopsychosocial assessment, clinical interview, standardized risk assessment tools, and measures of mental health, substance use, health, social functioning, and criminal behavior. Ultimately, whether a defendant can participate in the program is based on recommendations from the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) team, the prosecuting attorney, and the defense attorney. The final decision, however, rests with the defendants, who must voluntarily agree to participate without knowing what the required treatment will be and make a guilty plea at a higher charge than they would otherwise receive.

Services Provided

The Bronx Mental Health Court has a 6-month minimum treatment mandate for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes, and an 18-to-24 month mandate for those convicted of felonies.

One of the main components of the Mental Health Court, quarterly status hearings, can increase in frequency, based on an individual’s specific case. A status hearing consists of a review of the progress and compliance of program participants. Since there are no predetermined sanctions for instances of noncompliance, the judge decides how to sanction a defendant.

After individuals are accepted into the Bronx Mental Health Court, a pre-placement clinical team helps them apply for public assistance and find appropriate treatment. Treatment placements may include therapeutic communities, outpatient drug or alcohol treatment programs, temporary housing, or substance abuse inpatient treatment. The most common treatment placements are community-based.

Once participants are linked with treatment, their post-placement case managers communicate with treatment providers, monitor treatment progress, and help to solve any issues they are having while in treatment. The clients are responsible for participating in community-based treatment and staying in regular contact with the TASC team and the Bronx Mental Health Court staff. The TASC team schedules consistent weekly appointment times with clients who are in community-based treatment and monthly visits for those in residential treatment.

To graduate from the Bronx Mental Health Court, the TASC team, judge, defense attorney, and prosecutor must determine that the participant’s treatment plan goals were achieved. After graduating from the Bronx Mental Health Court, those with felony charges are able to re-plead to a lesser felony charge or a misdemeanor charge, and those with misdemeanors may have their charges reduced to a violation or dismissed. Those participants who fail to graduate from the program are sentenced to the jail alternative that was specified in the plea agreement when they entered the program; however, they are still able to participate in the program in the future.

Evaluation Outcomes

Study 1
Rossman and colleagues (2012) found mixed results regarding the impact of the Bronx Mental Health Court on measures of recidivism. There was no significant difference between the treatment and control groups on re-arrest and re-conviction rates. The treatment group had a smaller hazard of recidivism (as measured by re-arrest) over time, compared with the control group. Overall, this suggests the program did not have the intended impact on participants.

Recidivism (Re-arrests)
There was no significant difference between the treatment group and control group on recidivism, as measured by re-convictions. The re-arrest rate for the treatment group was 69 percent, whereas the re-arrest rate for the control group was 75 percent.

Recidivism (Re-convictions)
There was no significant difference between the treatment group and control group on recidivism as measured by re-convictions. Both groups had a re-conviction rate of 62 percent.

Time to Re-arrests
The treatment group had a 31-percent smaller hazard of recidivism (as measured by re-arrests) over time, compared with the control group (a significant difference).

Source https://www.crimesolutions.gov/

 

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