Specialitycourts, also problem solving courts solve problems that affect thepeople in their day-to-day lives. The first speciality court wasintroduced in 1989, and ever since, the numbers of speciality courtshave dramatically increased (Hemmens,Brody,and Spohn,2010).The courts were introduced to replace traditional criminal justiceprocesses that were ineffective in solving some types of problematicbehaviours and crimes. Different speciality courts have differentjurisdiction according to their setting. Nevertheless, all specialitycourts have some similarities despite their different jurisdiction.For instance, a judge in the speciality court must be present duringthe ruling, as well as address the underlying issue to the criminalsituation. These courts intend to offer help to the low-levelcriminals who suffer from social, mental, or substance abuse problemto become important individuals in the society. They achieve this byoffering treatments with intensive supervision. There are severalspeciality courts such as Domestic Violence Courts, Drug Courts,Youth Courts, Mental Health Courts, Teen Courts, and Veteran Courts,among others. This paper discusses more on the mental health courts,its significance, and effectiveness to its participants and society.In addition, it explains mental health court as a better alternativeto the traditional criminal justice processing practises.
Mentalhealth court is a special court that deal with defendants with mentalproblems, and provide them with special services to draw them awayfrom criminal justice system. The court combines community mentalhealth treatment with the judicial supervision and other supportservices to minimize criminal activities. In 1997, Florida launchedtheir first mental court with California establishing the same courtin 1999 (Hemmenset. al., 2010).Mental health courts make use mental health resources and criminaljustice to connect participants with the treatment and socialservices within their communities, respond to public safety anxiety, improves the lives of the offenders, reduce recidivism, and reducethe cost and the time for diversion process in the criminal justicesystem.
Offendersin the mental health courts are able to get medication for theirillness 9Champion,Hartley,and Rabe,2012).It is the mandate of the court to ensure all the offenders take theirmedication and cater for the expenses. Prior the introduction ofthese courts, the criminal justice courts could treat the mentallyill offenders as any other offenders. They would attend the regularcourts and sentenced to jail and state prison just like personswithout mental illness. The offenders would go through incarcerationand make no change. Later, they would go back to the community withthe same mental illness, or even more worse. The mental health courtsrecognise that the offenders have health issues hence, they work toreduce or get lid of the problem.
Thecourt offer intervention and assistance to the defendants, and mouldthem to become better and productive in the society. Mental healthcourts are critical feature of criminal justice system as theyimprove the value of life of the participants. The main objective ofmental health courts is to mandate and monitor the treatment ofdefendants to better their lives, as well as increase the publicsafety. According to (Schneider,Bloom,and Heerema,2007),participants diverts from criminal justice system into substanceabuse or community mental treatment. To achieve this goal, the mentalhealth courts separate the criminal court, direct people with mentalproblem into the community treatment, and supervise the defendants toensure they meet the court requirements, and offer voluntaryparticipation and incentive for compliance. The court allows theparticipants to remain in the community and amend their behaviours.In addition, they equip them with skills to improve their lives andavoid destructive behaviours.
Further,the mental health courts intend to reduce recidivism. According toSchneideret al. (2007),mental health courts have so far achieved to minimise recidivism to acertain degree. In addition, he found that the courts have someeffectiveness in reducing successive attachment with the criminaljustice system. There are less jail days, technical violations, andnew arrests. After the introduction of mental health courts, therehas been a tremendous decrease of crime rate for the participants.
Inaddition, mental health courts reduce the cost and the time fordiversion process. Normal criminal courts incur highercommunity-based treatment cost and higher jail costs compared tomental health courts (Championet. al., 2012).The significance of the mental health courts is also experienced witha decrease for time that the participants stay in jail before andafter diversion. A research conducted by Hemmenset. al., (2010), shows that participants in diverted program spendmore time in the community compared to participants in non-divertedprogram.
Indeed,mental health courts are effective to both the participants and thesociety in general. As much as the offenders improve their lives, thesociety is assured for public safety. Once the offenders are healed,there are rare chances that they will conduct further offences.Therefore, the speciality courts are more effective alternativecompared to the traditional criminal justice process practices. Thesecourts reduce recidivism, positively affect lives, reduce recurrenceof offence, as well as connect the offenders with their communities.
Champion,D. J., Hartley, R. D., & Rabe, G. A. (2012).Criminal courts:Structure,process, and issues(3rded.).UpperSaddleRiver, NJ:PearsonEducation, Inc
Hemmens,C., Brody, D. C., & Spohn, C. (2010). Criminalcourts: A contemporary perspective.Los Angeles: Sage.
Schneider,R. D., Bloom, H., & Heerema, M. (2007). Mentalhealth courts: Decriminalizing the mentsally ill.Toronto: Irwin Law.