The Effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in Reducing Recidivism and Police Contact: A Systematic Review
Mental health courts were created to help criminal defendants who have a mental illness that significantly contributes to their criminal offense. The purpose of this systematic literature review is to assess the current evidence to address the question, “How effective are mental health courts in reducing recidivism and police contact?” Systematic literature searches of eight electronic databases were performed. A total of 2590 unique citations were identified. Of these, 20 studies were included in the final analysis. The results of this systematic review suggest there is some evidence to show that mental health courts help to reduce recidivism rates, but the effect on police contact is less clear. Results also suggest case managers or access to vocational and housing services may be important components of effective mental health courts.
KeywordsMental health courts Recidivism Rearrest Justice system Police contact Mental illness
Assertive community treatment
Forensic assertive community treatment
Mental health court
Peer review of electronic search strategies
Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Treatment as usual
Traditional criminal court
DL and CSD led the conception, design, data acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data. SB collaborated on the design and data acquisition. JB collaborated on the analysis and interpretation of the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Dr. Dewa gratefully acknowledges the support provided by her CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair. Any views expressed or errors are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the views of any of the funders.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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