In this paper, the author presents ethnographic research and analysis of how criminal justice and mental health professionals interact with each other and with criminal defendants with mental illness in running a mental health court (MHC) program. Ethnographic field research included observations of court programs, interviews of professionals, and gathering of textual documents, at nine MHCs in a Midwestern state. In MHC criminal defendants with mental illness participate in a program of regular court appearances, probation supervision, and mandated treatment, rather than being incarcerated in jail or prison. The author utilized the symbolic interaction perspective and examined how the professionals work together to select participants and judge their performances. Professionals interact and share case documents in socially constructing the participant. They operate the program as a filter so that a relatively small number of the population of incarcerated persons with severe mental illness in the state successfully graduate from the program. Implications of these findings are discussed.
Mental Health Courts, Professionals, Interaction, Ethnography
Funding: This project was supported in part by Grant # 06-DJ-BX-0681 and Grant # 08-DJ-BX-0034 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the author and do not represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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Recommended APA Citation
Staton, M. D. (2019). Professional Interaction in Mental Health Courts: Processing Defendants with Mental Illness. The Qualitative Report, 24(8), 1967-1989. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2019.3674