U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Professional Interaction in Mental Health Courts: Processing Defendants With Mental Illness

NCJ Number
Qualitative Report Volume: 24 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2019 Pages: 1967-1989
Monte D. Staton
Date Published
August 2019
23 pages
This article presents ethnographic research and analysis of how criminal justice and mental health professionals interact with one another and with criminal defendants with mental illness in operating a mental health court (MHC) program.
Ethnographic field research included observations of court programs, interviews with professionals, and the analysis of textual documents at nine MHCs in a Midwestern state. In MHC, criminal defendants with mental illness participate in a program of regular court appearances, probation supervision, and mandated treatment, rather than being incarcerated in jail or prison. The author used the symbolic interaction perspective and examined how the professionals work together to select participants and judge their performances. Professionals interact and share case documents in socially profiling the participant. They operate the program as a filter so that a relatively small number of incarcerated persons with severe mental illness in the state successfully graduate from the program. Implications of these findings are discussed. 1 figure and 44 references (publisher abstract modified)