Mental health courts (also called MHCs) have been a part of the New York criminal justice system for years, but they are an often underutilized alternative. While not appropriate for all defendants, they can help people who have come into contact with the police due to mental health issues. It can also help people suffering from mental health problems from being placed into the prison system, avoiding some of the worst consequences of a criminal prosecution.
What Are the Mental Health Courts?
Mental health courts are a type of court intended to deal with criminal defendants with psychological problems who are arrested due to something related to their mental health issues, and who do not pose a risk to the public. These defendants are typically people who either have not received proper psychological care in the past, or who have had difficulty accessing resources to care for their psychological issues. Rather than simply incarcerating defendants, the MHCs use alternative methods to help people get the care they need to become productive members of society.
Why Do Mental Health Courts Exist?
The MHCs were created due to troubling trends in criminal justice, where people with untreated psychological disorders would wind up in jail or prison due to their psychological problems. Rather than receive proper treatment for their psychological problems, these defendants would often suffer abuse while incarcerated, often worsening the problem. By diverting these defendants away from the Department of Corrections, the hope is to help them get the treatment they need, rather than simply locking them up.
What Do the Mental Health Courts Do?
When someone is arrested for an alleged crime related to a psychological problem, they can seek a mental health evaluation from the court. If the evaluation shows they have psychological problems, they can be diverted to an MHC, which will guide them towards community resources they can use to help manage their issues. This reduces the burden on the justice system, and helps prevent people with psychological issues from being unnecessarily subjected to jail or imprisonment.
How Can I Benefit From the Mental Health Courts?
If you have been arrested for a criminal activity, and have untreated psychological problems, the MHC can help you get the resources you need, while also protecting you from incarceration. However, the MHCs are not necessarily appropriate for everyone. To find out more, you should contact an attorney experienced in criminal defense who can tell you more about your rights.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.