On this page we present detailed results for our Mental Health Courts model in Atlanta. You can find information about the following topics:

Baseline Crime Statistics

Felony Recidivism Outcomes

Misdemeanor Recidivism Outcomes

Health Outcomes

 Employment Outcomes

Returns to State and Local Government

Approximately 15% of the inmates in the state prison system have a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. 25% of inmates in the county jail system also have a serious mental illness.

The recidivism rate for people imprisoned for a felony is 42%, while the recidivism rate for people jailed for a misdemeanor is 62%.

In the absence of the Mental Health Courts program, all convicted felony defendants would serve their original prison sentence. With the program, only participants who drop out or fail out of the program would be incarcerated.

We project that this would lead to 651 fewer felony incarcerations in the first ten years. 

We project that the program takeup rate for misdemeanor defendants would be much lower than the felony takeup rate. However, misdemeanor defendants who complete the program would have their charges dropped and would avoid jail time, while first-time offenders would also avoid a criminal record. We project that 7,954 fewer people would 

Studies indicate that recidivism among Mental Health Court graduates is significantly lower than recidivism among released convicts who do not go through the program and receive treatment.

Over 10 years, the percentage of participants who will be incarcerated for another crime is 76. With the Mental Health Courts program, we project this would decrease to 42%, for a total of 1,488 fewer incarcerations over 10 years. 

Mental health courts that feature a well-designed treatment component have been shown to help reduce major psychiatric symptoms among graduates.

We estimate that without the program, there would be approximately 6,255 hospitalizations or emergency department visits for symptoms of severe mental illness each year among the participant cohort. With the program, we estimate that this would decrease to 5,475, a 12% reduction.

50% of offenders with severe mental illness have a co-occurring substance abuse problem. The Mental Health Court program has been shown to have a moderate effect on rates of substance abuse among graduates post-release. We estimate that 310 fewer people will abuse illegal substances with the Mental Health Court program.

People with severe mental illnesses have low rates of employment, and a previous incarceration lowers their chances of employment even further. We estimate that by avoiding incarceration and receiving mental health treatment, an additional 202 people would be employed over ten years.

Providing an additional 8,363 offenders with one year of treatment and supervision through the Mental Health Courts system will cost the city of Atlanta $61.1 million per year.

The program begins generating long-term returns as graduates are less likely to be re-incarcerated over the following ten years. The city and state will receive increased income tax and sales tax revenue, as graduates who stay out of prison find employment at higher rates than non-treated offenders with severe mental illnesses. Finally, state Medicaid spending will be reduced as graduates have reduced rates of severe psychiatric symptoms, lowering the rates of hospitalization and emergency department visits.

In total, we project a cumulative rate of return to the city and state of $3.27 per dollar invested using a 3% discount rate over ten years.

Sources of Financial Savings

The largest percentage of financial savings are generated by avoiding the initial costs of incarceration. Fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits due to reduced psychiatric symptoms generate another 28% of savings. Income and sales taxes due to increased employment generate 1% of savings. Lower felony recidivism over 10 years generates 24% of savings, and reduced medical expenditures due to lower rates of substance abuse accounts for 3% of savings. Finally, lower recidivism rates for misdemeanors contributes 1% of savings.