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Mental Health Court (Adult): Technical Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
13 pages

This meta-analysis examines the effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in order to address the pressure faced by criminal justice professionals and policy makers, to explore strategies aimed at meeting the unique needs of persons with mental illness, who have histories of involvement in the criminal justice system, and who have not been successfully engaged by community mental health treatment agencies.


This document describes research on the effectiveness of Mental Health Courts (MHC), which are specialized, treatment-oriented courts that divert non-violent, mentally ill patients from the criminal justice system into court-monitored, community-based treatment and social services. The authors conducted a systematic review, according to PRISMA protocol, to identify studies fitting the inclusion criteria for this meta-analysis, criteria which included: both treatment group and the comparison/control group must consist of adult offenders, ages 18 years and older, with an identified mental illness; the study must evaluate a criminal justice intervention; the study must include a measure of recidivism as an outcome; and both experimental and quasi-experimental studies were eligible for inclusion. In total, out of the original 720 research reports that were reviewed for inclusion, the authors included nine studies in the final analysis for this report, all of which were conducted in the United States. Two studies were unpublished technical reports, conducted by government or private entities, while the remaining studies were published in peer-reviewed journals. General recidivism was examined in all nine studies; in six of the studies, results favored treatment, while the odds-ratios for general recidivism ranged from 0.13 to 1.23. Results indicated a positive, but not significant, impact of the intervention, and the studies did not share a common effect size. The authors grouped the studies based on follow-up period for further moderator analysis, where in-program measurement of recidivism was the most common outcome, and results suggested that there is no statistical difference in the effect of MHC court on in-program and post-program recidivism.

Date Published: January 1, 2012