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Mental Health Courts: Separate Justice System

Patients of mental health require special attention and treatments and on normal circumstances, the prison cell will not give the proper, not even the sufficient treatment. It has been observed that those people who are suffering from certain mental disorders become worse while they are in correctional facilities. They get intimidated by the other inmates, they get abused even and the worst part is, they do not get the right treatment for their disorders. There is simply no possible way for them to get treated inside such facilities. Therefore, their psychological disorders become aggravated.

In the past recent years, it has been observed that offenders with mental illnesses are fastly falling into the jurisdiction of criminal justice system. Added to this are the shocking percentages of people with mental illnesses that are mixed into normal groups of people in correctional facilities. This is due to the lack of mental health facilities or their feeling of intimidation and reluctance to avail the services of such facilities which make them unable to connect to the community support systems that they are entitled to. In the end, people with mental disorders find themselves committing both minor and severe crimes, thus incarceration without receiving the services they require. This brought on the need for a judicial system that would specifically advance the services needed by criminal offenders with mental disorders.

Because of the need to improve the criminal justice system in the country, government officials, policy makers, the Council of State Governments and mental health professionals convened to come up with a solution that will answer the specific needs of criminal offenders with psychological disorders.

Mental health courts are the links between mental health and criminal law. This body combined the specialties of almost all types of people working in both fields to come up with favorable programs that work for the advantage mentally ill offenders. These courts commission court personnel such as judges, prosecutors and attorneys who have expertise and sufficient knowledge on mental health. Up to date, there are about 27 courts around the United States that are promoting treatment methods that are supported by the courts in exchange for incarceration.

These courts are adhering to therapeutic methods for people with mental health needs and they work on two approaches. One is to help prevent the rate of mental illnesses from rising to lessen the frequency of criminal offenses in support of public protection and two, distinguish that the need for criminal sanctions is highly unnecessary when it is proven that the cause of the criminal act is a psychological disorder. With these approaches in mind, there are two goals enveloping this type of courts, namely: a) to lessen the exacerbation of criminal behaviors due to mental health illnesses magnified by insufficient number of services extended to people who need them and b) to find the alternative solution to imprisonment that would restrain the recurrence of the criminal act while providing treatment options for the offenders.

These courts believe that their services could augment the provisions of mental health facilities and may also extend the services of the criminal justice system. This way, such courts are able to give the alternative solutions that help lessen the number of offenses of individuals who are not mentally well.

It cannot be denied though that this program is still at its infancy period- having too little resource and having systems that are still developing. In fact, it was noted on the research conducted by the Bazelon Center Review that each court system has no specific model to which these courts could follow their structures. Also, they are allowed to create their own systems, rules and procedures that will work for the best interests of the facilities.

However, it cannot be discounted that mental health courts are playing the crucial role of separating offenders with mental health needs from normal people to whom criminal justice system applies well.


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