Traditional courts in the United States are ill-equipped to handle the increasing number of mentally ill defendants entering the criminal justice system. Taking a cue from drug courts, jurisdictions across the country have instituted a new type of problem-solving court: Mental Health Courts (MHCs). MHCs link defendants suffering from mental illness to treatment and supportive services as an alternative to incarceration, in the hopes of lowering recidivism rates and increasing public safety.This Note examines the three adjudication models commonly employed by MHCs: the pre-adjudication model, the postadjudication model, and the combination model. In the preadjudication model, charges are held in abeyance until the defendant successfully completes treatment. In the post-adjudication model, the defendant is often required to plead guilty before entering treatment. In the combination model, the defendant is often convicted and sentenced to probation that includes treatment. Each of these models has strengths, weaknesses, and different outcomes for clients in those courts.This Note discusses the three theories that form the founding principles of MHCs: therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice, and preventive law. It then examines each of the three MHC adjudication models and analyzes whether each model upholds these theories. The Note concludes that the pre-adjudication model best achieves the goals of the therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice, and preventive law principles and argues that current and new MHCs in Illinois should adopt this model.
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