It is no secret that prisons in the United States are filled with people who struggle with various mental illnesses. In a way, this is unfortunate. It isn’t necessarily that those with mental illnesses should never be incarcerated. Truly, in a certain percentage of cases, imprisonment may be the most sensible option for mentally ill offenders.
Because of the potential options mentally ill defendants may have when their condition is properly recognized by the courts, though, it is important for defendants with a history of mental illness to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine their options for resolving their case and take advantage of available alternatives.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, offenders with mental illnesses are incarcerated more often than they are hospitalized, but cases can be resolved in alternative ways. Two prominent alternatives are mental health courts and crisis intervention training. For an offender to participate in either of these types of programs is considered a “diversion” from the ordinary criminal process.
Typical features of mental health courts are that offenders are put under ongoing judicial supervision while they undergo appropriate treatments addressing their mental health needs. Typically, mental health courts only deal with nonviolent offenders. The idea is to address the mental illness that underlies the behavior the criminal system seeks to punish.
Another common form of division program in Maryland is crisis intervention training. In our next post, we’ll continue speaking on the topic of diversion programs and what an experienced criminal defense attorney can do advocate for a defendant with a mental illness.