December 27, 2006

Some Counties Try Mental Health Courts

In an effort to offer nonviolent offenders with significant mental illnesses treatment rather than incarceration, and at the same time deal with overcrowded prisons and jails while still protecting public safety, Tulsa County court officials have joined a growing trend and developed a "Mental Health Court". This article, appearing in the Tulsa World news, quotes District Judge Rebecca Nightingale as saying that these Mental Health Courts would focus on people whose "criminal behavior is a byproduct of the mental illness." The article goes on to say that

Defendants who want to participate must be competent for court purposes but also must be diagnosed with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

Use of Mental Health Courts expects to achieve 3 main goals:

  • Better use of criminal justice resources (reduction in both jail population as well as involvement of law enforcement with individuals with mental illnesses)
  • Increase public safety by reducing repeat offenses while reducing expenses by treating mentally ill offenders in the community
  • Provide a better quality of life for people with mental illnesses

Read the full article: Mental Health Court Set: Focus will be on nonviolent offenders with mental illness


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