Approximately 15% of people incarcerated in the U.S. criminal justice system are involved with the criminal justice system primarily due to mental health problems. Mental health courts have been shown to reduce recidivism rates and keep people out of prison.

A court created to work with nonviolent offenders whose involvement with the criminal justice system can be attributed largely to mental illness. Participants are assigned to mental health treatment which may include hospitalization, and receive ongoing follow-up treatment and medication. Participants who successfully complete the program have their criminal charges dropped.

Our model assumes 18 months of intensive treatment which includes bi-weekly meetings with mental health professionals.

Approximately 42,500 non-violent arrestees per year who suffer from a serious mental illness are eligible in Los Angeles.

For a $223.5 million investment, the Mental Health Court program could enroll 27,131 offenders with a severe mental illness. The following results are expected for one cohort of 27,131 offenders.

We use a variety of data sources to tailor our analysis to the location and to make our estimates as accurate as possible. However, sometimes data is unavailable, either because it has not been collected, or because it is not shared publicly. We encourage government agencies and other organizations to share their de-identified data online and researchers to prioritize the following gaps in the data. 

Recidivism - There is insufficient data on the different recidivism rates for people convicted of felonies compared with people convicted of misdemeanors. Some crimes can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, making precise recidivism calculations difficult. More detailed statistics should be published in this area.

Part II Crimes - Published crime statistics usually include only Uniform Crime Reporting Part 1 crimes, such as homicide, assault, burglary, or larceny. However, people with severe mental illnesses are often arrested for Part 2 crimes, which can include public order offenses, simple assault, prostitution, vandalism, vagrancy, or possession of stolen property. We use the nationwide ratio of Part 2 to Part 1 offenses to estimate the number of Part 2 offenses in each jurisdiction.

Effect of Both a Serious Mental Illness and a Criminal Record on Employment - Studies clearly indicate that people suffering from a severe mental illness have lower rates of employment. Evidence also indicates that people with a previous criminal conviction on their record are less likely to be employed. However, there is insufficient data on how these factors affect employment when combined. We assume that employment prospects for a person suffering from a severe mental illness are decreased by a criminal record by the same percentage as a person without a severe mental illness.