This week, you learned about mental health courts. As this is a relatively new innovation, their effectiveness is still being studied.
A number of interesting questions have arisen from this development, including those which comprise this week’s discussion assignment: Is it important for participation in a mental health court to be voluntary on the part of the offender, or should the prosecutor be able to direct a case to mental health court?
What are some of the unintended negative consequences of having one’s case diverted through a mental health court as opposed to normal processing in criminal court? For instance, it might be possible that having a “mental health” issue on record could prevent the offender from applying for certain jobs in the future.
What other negative effects might result? Clearly, a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia would justify the special treatment accorded by mental health courts and treatment programs.
What other conditions should be included in this protocol? For instance, should drug addiction be considered a “mental illness” for the purposes of determining whether to divert a criminal case to mental health court?
Last, is it fair to the victim of the crime to have the case diverted away from traditional trial and punishment? Should the victim have input into the decision to divert a case?
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