Criminal defendants who complete programs supervised by mental health courts are less likely to be rearrested in the following two years, says a study by North Carolina researchers appearing in the journal Psychiatric Services. Psychiatric News reports that about 72 percent of those who completed the program were not rearrested in that time, compared with just 19 percent of those who were expelled from the program and 37 percent of those who chose to leave, said Prof. Virginia Hiday and doctoral student Bradley Ray of North Carolina State University.
More time passed before defendants who successfully finished the court process were rearrested. At five months after the end of court supervision, only 8 percent of completers had been rearrested, compared with 46 percent of noncompleters. Mental health courts serve as a voluntary alternative to either trial or sentencing for eligible defendants diagnosed with mental disorders. When successful, they keep such defendants out of jail. “We need to find alternatives to putting people with mental illness in prison,” said Prof. Renée Binder, M.D., interim chair of the department of psychiatry and director of the Psychiatry and the Law Program at the University of California, San Francisco.