This week, you learned about mental health courts. As this is a  relatively new innovation, their effectiveness is still being studied. A  number of interesting questions have arisen from this development,  including those which comprise this week’s discussion assignment:

  • Is it important for participation in a mental health court to be  voluntary on the part of the offender, or should the prosecutor be able  to direct a case to mental health court?

  • What are some of the unintended negative consequences of having  one’s case diverted through a mental health court as opposed to normal  processing in criminal court? For instance, it might be possible that  having a “mental health” issue on record could prevent the offender from  applying for certain jobs in the future. What other negative effects  might result?

  • Clearly, a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia would  justify the special treatment accorded by mental health courts and  treatment programs. What other conditions should be included in this  protocol? For instance, should drug addiction be considered a “mental  illness” for the purposes of determining whether to divert a criminal  case to mental health court?

  • Last, is it fair to the victim of the crime to have the case  diverted away from traditional trial and punishment? Should the victim  have input into the decision to divert a case?
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