Mental Health Courts are therapeutic courts that seek to address criminal behavior by treating the underlying causes of such behavior. Many people who are charged with a violation of criminal law are suffering from a mental illness that impairs their judgment or impacts their decision making. Mental Health Courts acknowledge that if the underlying cause of the criminal conduct is left untreated defendants are likely to re-offend.
By offering sentencing alternatives that place people into community based treatment rather than jail or prison, Mental Health Courts have tremendous success at decreasing recidivism. Mental Health Courts utilize mental health assessments, individually crafted treatment plans, probation monitoring with specially trained team members and frequent contact with the court to support defendants in treating their mental illness and learning new skills.
Mental Health Courts are characterized by their collaborative model. The “Team” comprised of the Judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation counselor and the mental health treatment staff work together to create a treatment plan that will best support the defendant. There are regular status hearings where progress is checked and the defendant is incentivized for following the plan and the consequences levied when the plan is not followed precisely are aimed at creating success and getting the defendant back on track. These reinforcements and the sustained supportive engagement with the court team help build healthy habits and long-term success.
The links on this page provide specific information on some of the mental health treatment courts in Washington. If you believe you, a friend or family member is caught up in the criminal justice system yet suffers from mental illness, contact us. Our attorneys have experience in these courts and would be glad to discuss them in more detail.