This study evaluated seven mental health courts
that were partially funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. They
were located in Santa Clara County, California, Orange County, North
Carolina, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Washoe County, Nevada,
Brooklyn, New York, Bonneville County, Idaho, and Orange County,
California. Research questions concerned (1) how cases were referred,
processed, and disposed of by the courts and (2) whether there were
factors that distinguished cases accepted by the court from cases
referred to the court but not accepted. The researchers were also
interested in whether mental health courts, like the majority of other
jail diversion programs, would have older, white women
disproportionately represented in comparison to their numbers in the
criminal justice system as a whole.
Data were collected on 285 people who were
formally referred to the seven courts between November 1, 2003, and
January 31, 2004. A formal referral was defined slightly differently
for each court, but, in general, it was a person who passed through
that court's pre-determined referral process. Court staff completed a
one-page questionnaire for every formal referral during the study
period. The questionnaire had three parts: (1) identification of the
referring agent, (2) characteristics of the referred person, and (3)
the disposition decision. The questionnaires were received back from
the courts between November 2003 and March 2004.
In 2002 the Bureau of Justice Assistance began funding 23
mental health courts in the United States. This study covered the seven
that were operational at the time the study began.
Individuals formally referred to the seven mental health
courts covered by this study between November 1, 2003, and January 31,
Data were gathered through questionnaires filled out by
staff at the seven mental health courts.
Variables include referral date, referring agent,
age, gender, race, most serious criminal charge, type of crime, number
of current misdemeanors and felonies, whether the person had a major
mental disorder, type of disorder, primary Axis I diagnosis, whether
the person had substance abuse problems, date of referral disposition,
referral disposition outcome, if accepted, whether the person
enrolled, reason if not accepted, and several derived variables.
Completed surveys were received from all seven sites
involved in the study.