Houston Judge Jan Krocker vows to put public safety first and says she’s unafraid to mete out tough sentences. The Republican doesn’t take a lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach when it comes to handling cases of those with mental illnesses, reports the Houston Chronicle. “Success in these cases is relative,” she says. “If you have someone who was arrested 25 times for loitering and trespassing in a year and that person gets on medication and arrests drop to five times a year, that’s a success.”
Krocker will begin to handle cases of the mentally ill full time in the coming months. The county is following the lead of scores of other counties across the U.S. that have created mental health courts with the hope of decreasing the number of mentally ill coming through the criminal justice system. Such courts can save money by diverting the mentally ill from jail into treatment. Local officials and advocates for the mentally ill warn, however, that one court will have little effect if more treatment services for the mentally ill are not provided in the community. Since 1997, when the nation’s first mental health courts were created in Indianapolis and Broward County, Fl., more than 150 such courts are operating. Their aim has been to provide more humane, effective treatment for the mentally ill and to reduce jail and court costs, said Allison Redlich, who is studying the effectiveness of the courts at Policy Research Associates, which advocates better treatment of the mentally ill.