Does participation in mental health court reduce recidivism?
The focus of this research was to provide descriptive research on the social phenomenon of Mental Health Courts (MHC). This thesis begins with a description of how a community in Northwestern Ontario developed a MHC to assist in reducing the involvement of mentally disordered individuals with the criminal justice system. This initiative was done without additional funds and was a unique response to a growing community issue. This research describes the demographic characteristics of the clients with the MHC in Kenora compared with those clients not involved in MHCs to determine if involvement with MHCs reduces mentally disordered individuals’ involvement with the criminal justice system. This comparison study examined the characteristics of individuals involved within the Mental Health Diversion & Court Support (MHD&CS) program at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Kenora Branch in 2005 and compared them with characteristics of individuals who were involved in the program in 2010 who were also involved in the MHC in Kenora. The results from this analysis indicated that the following demographic characteristics yielded statistically significant differences between 2005 and 2010: if participants had residence support and to what level, if participants were presenting with anxiety symptoms, and if participants were presenting with depressive symptoms The results indicated those individuals from 2010 who were involved with the MHC reoffended less than those from 2005 who were in the regular court stream. Therefore, it could be concluded that individuals’ participation in the MHC may have influenced recidivism rates of individuals involved in the MHD&CS program. The results for readmission to hospital indicated a lower percentage of participants in 2010 who were readmitted to hospital compared to participants in 2005. Therefore, it could be concluded that having individuals participate in the MHC may have influenced individuals being readmitted to hospital. When examining which of the significant descriptive variables were statistically significant with either re-offence rates or readmission to hospital rates within their prospective years, there was only one variable that was statistically significant; this was the variable in the 2010 sample of whether participants were experiencing symptoms of depression and if they were readmitted to hospital. The chi-square results indicated that there was an association between participants exhibiting signs of depression in 2010 and being readmitted to hospital. Therefore, it appears that those individuals with symptoms of depression who were part of the MHC were more likely to be readmitted to hospital.