Mental Health Courts in America: Promise and Challenges

U. Castellano
Leon Anderson, Utah State University

Originally published by SAGE in the American Behavioral Scientist.

Link to the publishers pdf available below:


This article offers an introduction to the special issue of American Behavioral Scientist on mental health courts (MHCs). We first provide an overview of the historical conditions that led up to the emergence of MHCs in the United States and how they are ideologically and operationally distinct from traditional courtroom justice. We turn to a critical examination of the state of the field; while there is a proliferation of MHC scholarship, we identify key theoretical and empirical gaps in our understanding of how MHCs work and how well they are achieving their stated objectives of reducing recidivism and improving clinical outcomes. We then summarize and highlight the major contributions of the five articles in this special issue to the MHC literature. The article concludes with a discussion of the promises and challenges of mental health courts as an alternative form of jurisprudence.