Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 55, Issue 7, pp 1073–1098 | Cite as

The Effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in Reducing Recidivism and Police Contact: A Systematic Review

  • Desmond Loong
  • Sarah Bonato
  • Jan Barnsley
  • Carolyn S. DewaEmail author
Original PAper


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.


Mental 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


Author Contributions

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.

Supplementary material

10597_2019_421_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (350 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Additional file 1 – PRISMA 2009 Checklist (PDF 327 kb)
10597_2019_421_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (40 kb)
Supplementary material 2 Additional file 2 – Risk of Bias Assessment Checklist (PDF 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace HealthCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Library ServicesCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Institute of Health Policy, Management and EvaluationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of California, DavisSacramentoUSA

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