Rehabilitating the Court System
This paper focuses on a court innovation for criminally involved people who suffer with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. It describes a recently developed strategy for dealing with the challenges of working with mentally ill individuals. The paper also discusses the historical and legal underpinnings of Mental Health Courts (MHCs), their growth, and the defining elements and operations of the earliest MHCs, which are best, viewed as evolving models of practice. Finally, the paper reviews studies of MHC operations and effectiveness and suggests future directions ...view middle of the document...
It must be noted that MHCs have expanded rapidly in the past several decades to provide more efficient coordination of treatment and supervision of prosecutors with behavioral health problems. A significant number of prosecutors in these court-based programs have co-occurring mental disorders, which predict early termination, re-arrest, and other negative outcomes (Arrigo, 2010). More recent years have seen a proliferation of problem solving courts designed to rehabilitate certain classes of prosecutors and thereby resolve the underlying problems that led to their court involvement in the first place.
The term Therapeutic Jurisprudence first appeared in the law literature in the late 1980s, in the context of mental health law. TJ is defined as "the study of the extent to which substantive rules, legal procedures, and the roles of lawyers and judges produce therapeutic or anti-therapeutic consequences for individuals involved in the legal process" (Gray, 2010). Since its introduction, TJ has emerged as an approach for examining an extensive array of legal subjects, including the response of the criminal court system to the problems and needs of prosecutors and how legal decisions can affect therapeutic outcomes. In summary, TJ emanated some two decades ago from mental health law, as scholars began looking at the positive and negative therapeutic aspects of proceedings leading to the involuntary civil commitment of mental patients (Wexler & Winick, 2003; Wexler 2009). Therapeutic jurisprudence looks at various aspects of the law to determine whether or the extent to which substantive rules of law, legal procedures, and the roles or actions of legal actors are therapeutic.
Legal scholars view TJ as the application of social scientific theories and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines for the purpose of understanding and promoting the psychological well being of participants in the legal process. As discussed above, TJ recognizes that the law and legal actors, as well as legal rules and procedures, can all have therapeutic or anti-therapeutic consequences for those who are affected by the court's activities and decisions (Wexler and Winick, 2003). The concept of TJ favors the court's adoption of a problem- solving, proactive, and results-oriented posture that is responsive to the current emotional and social problems of legal consumers.
TJ conceptualizes the law as a social force and judges as therapeutic agents who exercise the court's authority to promote clients' psychological health and social interests, while protecting their due -process rights and ensuring that justice is served in every case (Wexler and Winick, 1996).
The first nationally recognized MHC was developed in Broward County, Florida, in May 1997. Local criminal justice officials took note of the many mentally ill who had been arrested for petty offenses and subsequently suffered an exacerbation of their symptoms while...