Int J Law Psychiatry 2010 Sep-Oct;33(4):265-71. Epub 2010 Jul 24.
Georgetown University Law Center, United States.
Based on qualitative observation and quantitative data from eight mental health courts (MHCs), this article argues that observed reductions in recidivism from participation in MHC are caused in part by the role of the judge in conveying elements of procedural justice. Specifically, the judge provides: (1) a heightened level of interpersonal treatment of participants that accords them dignity, respect, and voice; (2) accountability for participants and service providers alike; and (3) transparency for decisions reached through an open negotiation process. Procedural justice theory predicts that participants will thereby be more likely to see legal decisions as legitimate and incorporate the court's values and goals as their own. Preliminary qualitative and quantitative data are presented from interviews of a sample of participants in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia's Mental Health Diversion Court (DCMHDC) that support these hypotheses. DCMHDC participants hold strongly positive views about the procedural justice they receive from their court experience and of the judge's role in providing justice.