Behavioral Health Court Impacts on Mental Health in the Marion County Criminal Justice System

Services: Crime analysis, Public safety analysis, Policy analysis, Data management, Program evaluation

Research Areas: Criminal Justice, Public Safety

Research has shown for many years that, nationally, persons with mental illness are disproportionately represented in jail and prison. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes the high prevalence of people with mental and substance use disorders involved with the justice system as a priority and has developed a range of policy initiatives, programs, and services that support improved “collaboration between the criminal justice and behavioral health systems (SAMHSA's Efforts on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Issues, 2017).”

To address the needs of this population, representatives from the Marion Superior Court have partnered with the Indiana Judicial Center, the Indiana Department of Corrections, and the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) to establish the Behavioral Health Court (BHC; previously referred to as the Mental Health Alternative Court). The UWCI, in cooperation with the BHC team, requested the assistance of the Center for Criminal Justice Research (CCJR) at the Indiana University Public Policy Institute in evaluating BHC implementation processes and outcomes. Our initial assessment of the BHC, published in March 2016, provided a preliminary assessment of referrals and examined the characteristics of the population being served by the program. In this issue brief, we update the results of our previous study by further examining short-term criminal justice outcomes among BHC participants. Specifically, we look at changes in jail days following BHC participation and in doing so, compare BHC outcomes to two similar efforts currently operating in Marion County: the Psychiatric Assertive Identification and Referral (PAIR) program and the specialized mental health probation (MHP) program.

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Brad Ray
  • Brad Ray
  • Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research
  • 317-274-8701
Dona Sapp
Rachel Thelin
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