U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Evaluation of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Mental Health Court Initiative

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2005
132 pages
This report presents findings from a process evaluation of seven mental health courts.
Results are described in terms of four dimensions: (1) type of charge accepted; (2) type of adjudication model; (3) type of sanctions used; and (4) type of supervision. The main findings along these dimensions were that all of the courts accepted felony cases; all but one followed post-adjudication models; the majority of courts were willing to use imprisonment as a sanction; and most mental health courts relied on internal supervision. Comparisons of first and second generation mental health courts revealed that they differed along the four dimensions. The main difference between first and second generation mental health courts concerned how potential clients were selected for enrollment. Five of the seven courts listed the Public Defender’s Office as either a primary or secondary referral source. Six of the seven courts received referrals from judges during the post-adjudication phase. In terms of client characteristics, no clear pattern of mental health characteristics emerged across the seven courts. The primary reason for rejection from mental health court was ineligibility due to mental health status. Finally, the mental health courts clientele was disproportionately comprised of older, White women. The evaluation findings suggest a lack of standardization across mental health courts and question whether the people targeted for diversion are the most appropriate candidates for mental health diversion. It is recommended that communities slow the development of new mental health courts until their effectiveness can be ascertained through systematic evaluation research. The process evaluation research consisted of two stages: (1) a qualitative stage involving site visits to courts, and (2) a quantitative stage involving the collection of questionnaire data from court staff on all formal referrals. The questionnaire focused on the identification of the referring agency, the characteristics of the client referred, and the disposition decision. Tables, references, appendixes

Date Published: December 1, 2005