In the society, committing crimes is almost unavoidable. Hence, criminal courts have been created. Punishments are imposed with the belief that it will deter the occurrences of crimes. Every offender, regardless of the offence and the personal circumstances, is put to jail. However, through centuries, the cycle still continues wherein drug users and mentally ill criminals still continue to lurk around cities. Hence, the society found a more lenient, yet effective program to deal with drug users and mentally ill offenders. As such, the mental health courts and drug courts were created.
One special court that exists in the country is the mental health courts. Mental Courts have existed already in 1997. The establishment of the Mental Health Court was instigated by the fact that criminal prosecution and incarceration of mentally ill inmates does not help them and the community as well. In addition, mentally ill offenders are not adequately represented in criminal court which often leads to the violation of their right to due process (Bazelon. org, 2008). While in prison, mentally ill inmates are exposed to rampant assault, discrimination, and other kinds of abuses.
This, in turn, does not reform the inmate; rather, it worsens their situation. In addition, the criminal prosecution of mentally ill offenders is harsher than a normal offender. This way, the constitutional rights are not guaranteed. Remarkably, the purpose of punishment, which is to reform, is defeated through the continued abuses. Through the Mental Health Court, the mentally ill offender undergoes a special litigation. There are two main rationales for this special court. The first is to “protect the public by addressing the mental illness that contributed to the criminal act” (Bazelon.
org, 2008). This way, recidivism is reduced. The second rationale is the recognition that criminal sanctions, regardless of its purpose, are not morally appropriate and ineffective to a crime which has been committed due to mental illness (Bazelon. org, 2008). Mental Health Courts is also aimed at attaining its goal. One of which is to stop the cycle of worsening mental illness and criminal behavior as caused by the failure of the community to address the problem and the inadequacy of alternative in curing them in prisons (Bazelon. org, 2008).
Another is to provide the mentally ill offenders with an effective treatment. In line with this, the known Baker Act has been enacted in several states. The act is primarily aimed at handling offenders with mental illness. Submission can be done voluntarily and involuntarily through the petition of a mental health professional, law enforcement, or the judge (Psychlaws, 2008). Like traditional criminal courts, mental health courts have a judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys having special expertise in dealing with mentally ill defendants in order to provide them with proper treatment and services (Bazelon.
org, 2008). In the mental health courts, the constitutional rights of the defendants are given paramount importance. Procedures are also made in order to ensure fair balance between the defendant’s rights and the public health and safety (Bazelon. org, 2008). Among the significant factors inculcated in the procedure includes voluntary transfer into the mental health court, right to withdraw, appointment to counsel, and plea bargaining. Mental health courts, however, does not hear all cases related to mental illness.
The gravity of crime and the state of mental illness of the defendant are considered as a factor whether to hear and try the case. The cases accepted are those non-violent crimes or misdemeanor. In order to ensure success of the mental health courts, the health provider should instigate the solution by their dedication and determination to help. In addition, the participation of the community is much needed as they directly benefit from the result. Another special psychological court is the drug court. Undeniably, the most faced problem in the society is the existence of prohibited drugs.
Despite the government’s effort to eradicate prohibited drugs, many are still abusing the use of it and is the main cause of numerous criminal activities in the country. The establishment of drug courts was aimed to break the cycle of societal problems such as, drug abuse, addiction, crime, delinquency, and child maltreatment (National Association of Drug Court Professional, 2008). Drug court requires the participation of criminal justice, child protective services, treatment, law enforcement, and educational and community anti-drug organizations (National Association of Drug Court Professional, 2008).
It also encompasses juvenile drug courts, reentry courts, DWI, and family dependency treatment courts. Notably, the court stresses on other factors that led the offenders to use or abuse drugs like maltreatment and child abuse. The existence of these factors will require active participation of parents and counselors. Drug court, however, does not hear and try all drug-related cases. Instead, it deals only with less serious offenses like simple drug possession or being under the influence of drug (National Association of Drug Court Professional, 2008). It also accepts probationers and drug users charged with non drug related cases.
Like mental health courts, drug courts also guarantee the constitutional rights of the offender while fairly considering public concern. The procedure comprises of request for admission in the drug court once charged with a felony. Then, the prosecutor’s office will evaluate whether to grant or deny the request. In making its decision, the prosecutor considers several factors. These factors include criminal records or drug-related offenses of the offender, extensive failure to appear history, outstanding warrant from other courts, and inability to pay full restitution within 18 months (National Association of Drug Court Professional, 2008).
Once approved, the request will be forwarded to the case manager of the Drug Court program for the determination of the applicability of the therapeutic court (National Association of Drug Court Professional, 2008). The approval of the case manager will finally allow the case to be lodged in drug court. As to the effectiveness of the drug court program, research shows that the goal of the program was attained. There was a remarkable decrease in drug use and criminal behavior. The conviction and re-arrest of the adult offenders were also lowered.
More importantly, drug court has reunited families who have been shaken by prohibited drugs. In criminal justice system, several special courts have been established to address the needs of offenders having mental illness and prohibited drug problem. Before the establishment of these courts, those mentally ill and drug user offenders were tried in criminal courts and punished according to criminal laws. However, it was noticed that these kinds of offenders were maltreated, discriminated, harassed, and abused.
They are also less represented and their Constitutional rights are not adequately provided to them. Remarkably, the punishment imposed was not meant to deter them from committing another crime. Instead, it increased recidivism and did not actually help in reforming the offenders. Eventually, mental health court and drug court were established to give special attention to mentally ill and drug user offenders. The procedure is not only meant to punish; but instead help these offenders to be treated and reformed. In this kind of program, the participation of the community as a whole is required.
References Bazelon. Org. (2008). The Role of Mental Health Courts in System Reform. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://www. bazelon. org/issues/criminalization/publications/mentalhealthcourts/ National Association of Drug Court Professional. (2008). Facts on Drug Courts. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://www. nadcp. org/whatis/ Psychlaws. Org. (2008). Frequently asked questions about reform of Florida’s Baker Act. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://www. psychlaws. org/PressRoom/faqonbakeract. htm