Mental health courts began as grassroots initiatives in the mid-1990s. Early versions found inspiration from the success of drug courts—an emerging brand of court dedicated to accused with substance addictions. On a very basic level, drug courts operate by offering accused a simple option: avoid serving a sentence for your drug-related offence by completing a drug-treatment program.
One of the first known programs to tackle the problem of mentally disordered accused in the criminal justice system was created in Toronto. The "Diversion of Mentally Disordered Accused" became a program which was part of the Crown Policy Manual in 1994. The success of these specialty courts, along with a growing awareness that the traditional criminal justice system was failing individuals with mental disorders, combined to legitimize the emergence of mental health courts.
In writing this book, the authors have sought to assist two groups of professionals primarily involved with these courts, namely, mental health care service providers and the various criminal justice professionals.
Part I of this book is an overview of the historical and theoretical foundations underlying the mental health court movement. It outlines the various factors which precipitated the emergence of these courts. Part II offers a thorough description of a typical mental health court in operation. In addition to describing the role of each mental health court team member, it goes on to provide guidance to those seeking to establish a mental health court. Part III analyzes the successes and failures of these courts and ends with a critical look at the long-term desirability of mental health courts.
"This is a practical book, of immediate use to its principal intended audience: those working in mental health court and diversion programs in Canada.... [The] relationship of the criminal justice and mental health systems, and the development of different models of mental health courts, are deftly discussed in the interdisciplinary and theoretical context of the therapeutic jurisprudence perspective. In that respect the book constitutes a major contribution to the therapeutic jurisprudence literature, and its discussion of the Canadian and comparative contexts will be of great interest to the legal and mental health communities in many jurisdictions. I am confident that it will soon take its place as a leading resource both in Canada and internationally."