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A Cure for Crime: Can Mental Health Treatment Diversion Reduce Crime Among Youth?

NCJ Number
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: 2006 Pages: 197-214
Alison E. Cuellar; Larkin McReynolds; Gail Wasserman
Date Published
18 pages
This article considers the policy issues related to youth mental health diversion programs, and reports on an evaluation of the effect of a mental health diversion program for youth conducted in Texas.
Youth crime is a serious social problem, as is the high proportion of young offenders in the juvenile justice system who have mental disorders. A recent policy innovation applies the theory of therapeutic jurisprudence and diverts youth with mental disorders to treatment in lieu of further court processing. The expansion of mental health diversion programs reflects an increasingly popular view that there is a causal relationship between youth mental disorders and crime. Policymakers who share this view place greater emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment to reduce crime, rather than on stricter punishment. The evaluation of the Texas program found that mental health diversion can be used effectively to delay or prevent youth recidivism. (publisher abstract modified)