What Happens to Mental Health Court Noncompleters
Abstract: Mental health court (MHC) research consistently finds that defendants who successfully complete and graduate from the court are less likely to recidivate than those who do not. However, research has not assessed what happens to these noncompleters once they are sent back to traditional court. Using follow-up data on six years of noncompleters from pre-adjudication MHC, we examine what happens to these defendants in traditional court. Findings suggest that 63.7% of defendants' charges were dismissed, 21.0% received probation, and 15.3% were sentenced to incarceration. We examine the time to disposition and differences in defendant characteristics and disposition outcome as well as the relationship between disposition and subsequent recidivism. Results suggest that more severe punishments in traditional court are associated with recidivism. Logistic regression analysis shows that defendants whose charges were dismissed in traditional court were less likely to recidivate than those who were sentenced to probation or incarceration. Our findings highlight the need for future MHC evaluations to consider traditional court outcomes and support trends towards post-adjudication courts. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Summary (2 min read)
The Mental Health Court
- MHCs are local innovations, developed to fit the needs of the particular jurisdiction; however, studies across courts suggest that there are some general similarities in the MHC process (Almquist & Dodd, 2009; Thompson, Reuland, & Souweine, 2003) .
- Courts can define compliance in different ways; however, it is generally viewed as following specific court orders (e.g., no drug or alcohol use) and adhering to treatment (e.g., attending treatment appointments, engaging with providers, taking medications).
- If a defendant is terminated from the process in a post-adjudication MHC, the original sentence is served out; however, in a pre-adjudication MHC the criminal charges are sent back to traditional court for disposition.
- While some recent research has examined predictors of MHC completion relative to noncompletion (Dirks-Linhorst et al., 2013; Redlich et al., 2010; Ray & Dollar, 2013) , none of these studies followed-up with the noncompleters to determine what happens to them in traditional criminal court and whether these disposition outcomes are associated with subsequent recidivism.
- The MHC observed in this study is located in a midsized town in the southeastern United States and practices all of the essential elements noted above (Almquist & Dodd, 2009) .
- It is a pre-adjudication MHC that accepts misdemeanor and felony cases.
- If consistently noncompliant, the defendant is terminated from the program.
- According to members of the MHC team, there are several reasons a defendant is terminated from the program; not showing up to court, noncompliance with treatment mandates, a new arrest, and drug use are the most common.
- This study examines what happens to MHC noncompleters once their charges are adjudicated in traditional court.
Data and Methods
- Over a six year period (2004 -2009) there were 163 defendants who were eligible, admitted, and started the MHC process but did not graduate.
- Of these 163 defendants there were 6 defendants whom the authors were unable to locate subsequent data on leaving a final sample of 157 MHC noncompleters of which 6.4% (n = 10) were coded by court staff as opting-out while the remaining 93.6% were terminated from the MHC process.
- Data regarding the defendant's demographic information (i.e., age, race, and gender), keyarrest characteristics (i.e., felony, misdemeanor, and type of crime), judicial disposition of the key-arrest (i.e., dismissal of charges, probation, jail/prison sentence), dates of jail entry and exit, and statewide arrests were coded for analysis.
- In those instances where a defendant was rearrested during MHC, these additional criminal charges were added to the traditional court docket for adjudication along with initial charges that led to MHC participation.
- All analyses were conducted using IBM's Statistical Package for the Social Sciences© (SPSS) 21.
- There were several types of dispositions listed in the court records, which the authors coded into three categories: dismissed, probation, and incarceration.
- The least likely disposition among noncompleters was incarceration: 15% (n = 24) were sentenced to jail after MHC and no individuals were sent to prison in this MHC.
- The authors found that the average length of By coding traditional court disposition dates they were also able to assess the time from MHC noncompletion to traditional court disposition.
- This study is the first to follow MHC noncompleters to determine what happens to their cases in traditional court.
- In looking at defendant characteristics across disposition outcomes the authors found that those with a greater number of prior arrests, as well as those arrested during MHC, were more likely to be sentenced to jail (see Case, Steadman, Dupuis, & Morris, 2009; Sarteschi et al., 2011) .
- This research was not designed to evaluate the MHC process, though it does address a growing population within the criminal justice system-who are also a large subgroup of MHC participants-that have received little attention in the academic literature: noncompleters.
- First, only one MHC setting was examined and while the observed setting has all the essential elements of a MHC, there may be differences in the structure and process that differ from other settings.
- Because the authors do not have treatment data one cannot speak to the potential benefits that this brings to MHC defendants' outcomes.
- Several studies have compared recidivism rates between completers and noncompleters (Burns et al., 2013; Dirks-Linhorst & Linhorst, 2012; Herinckx et al., 2005; Hiday et al., 2013; McNiel & Binder, 2007; Moore & Hiday, 2006; Steadman et al., 2011) but none have examined whether traditional court outcomes of noncompleters is associated with recidivism.
- By examining these noncompleters the authors were able to show what traditional court disposition outcomes are most common and more accurately describe the duration of the criminal justice experience for MHC participants.
- Further research is needed to determine whether there is a relationship between disposition and recidivism among MHC noncompleters.
- More broadly, researchers should examine whether extended judicial supervision is necessary for low-level or first time offenders with a mental illness.
- To this end, research should continue to focus on evaluating those diversion programs aimed at high risk groups-such as those with cooccurring disorders-to determine effectiveness (Broner & Lattimore, 2004; Steadman & Naples, 2005) .
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Q1. What are the contributions mentioned in the paper "Running head: mental health court noncompleters 1 title: what happens to mental health court noncompleters? authors:" ?
Using follow-up data on six years of noncompleters from pre-adjudication MHC, the authors examine what happens to these defendants in traditional court. The authors examine the time to disposition and differences in defendant characteristics and disposition outcome as well as the relationship between disposition and subsequent recidivism. Findings suggest that 63. 7 % of defendants ’ charges were dismissed, 21. 0 % received probation, and 15. Results suggest that more severe punishments in traditional court are associated with recidivism.