The country’s first mental health court was established twenty years ago in Florida. Since then, about 300 counties across the United States have adopted similarly innovative and progressive mental health courts. The statistics related to inmates who suffer from mental illness are significant.
Statistics out of the Bureau of Justice reveal some startling trends:
- A significantly higher number of female inmates suffer from mental illness than do male inmates (73 percent of female inmates and 55 percent of male inmates);
- Twenty-three percent of this population have been incarcerated three or more times; and
- The number of U.S. facilities for those who’ve committed a criminal offense and who suffer from a mental illness has continued to decline over the last several decades.
These statistics highlight an important fact: We don’t have sufficient means for facilitating those criminal offenders who are mentally ill. Because we don’t have better options, our jails and prison systems sometimes serve the role of warehousing those who suffer from mental illness.
The mental health courts that have been around for a while demonstrate encouraging results related to those criminal offenders who are mentally ill. A recent study out of the Florida Institute of Technology shares promising statistics based on 118 participants (accused of criminal offenses) in a mental health court program:
- A full 90 percent of the participants hadn’t been rearrested 3 months after release;
- At 6 months after release, 81 percent of participants remained un-charged; and
- After three years, 54 percent of participants remained outside the criminal justice system.
Further, those participants who were charged with criminal offenses (after being in the program) usually reentered the criminal justice system on much less serious charges.
Help and Hope
The study’s authors determined that the targeted, community-based treatment ordered by mental health courts enhances participants’ overall ability to remain outside the criminal justice system by helping them to learn and adopt better social skills and more effective coping mechanisms.
Like many other states, New Jersey has yet to establish mental health courts. Although New Jersey has had significant success with drug courts – courts that attend to cases involving defendants whose addiction issues motivated their criminal conduct – the state has yet to take the important step of adopting mental health courts. If New Jersey’s drug courts are any guide, mental health courts could help both our criminal justice system and our citizens who suffer from mental illness.
If You’re Facing Criminal Charges in NJ, Call 732-238-8686 for More Information Today
If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. David C. Barry, Attorney at Law is here to help. Attorney David C. Barry understands how difficult facing such charges can be, and he has the experience, skill, and compassion to help navigate your case towards its most positive resolution. David will explain your rights and options, guide you through the legal process, and coordinate your comprehensive defense. If you need a skilled legal advocate, contact or call David today at 732-238-8686.