A Behind-the-Scenes Examination of the Kitchener Mental Health Court: The Diversion of Persons with Mental Disorders
Leroux, Carlie Luciana
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In this thesis I investigate how the Canadian criminal justice system handles persons with mental disorders who come into conflict with the law. Through an in-depth examination of the Kitchener Mental Health Court this research explores the legal concept of diversion. Diversion is a voluntary option for individuals accused of minor offences. Its main objective is to function as a positive intervention. Offenders who participate in diversionary programs avoid a criminal record but are still held accountable for their criminal behavior. Diversion programs lessen the burden on the criminal justice system by decreasing the volume of caseloads in the courts via diverting individuals away from incarceration through alternative measures. The goal of this study is to uncover the processes involved in diverting offenders away from incarceration and into appropriate mental health treatment. Two theoretical frameworks applicable to mental health courts include the medical model and therapeutic jurisprudence. The thesis explores the philosophies of mental health courts, the principles of sentencing, and the role of community support agencies in the location and provision of mental health treatment. This research includes a six-month observational study of the Kitchener Mental Health Court setting and five in-depth interviews with the Crown prosecutor, defense attorney, Canadian Mental Health Association Court Coordinator, Salvation Army representative, and a mother of one of the accused. The findings from this research suggest that mental health courts strongly adhere to the treatment ideology contained in the medical model and therapeutic jurisprudence. The Kitchener Mental Health Court demonstrates this through its empathetic, treatment-oriented approach towards offenders, language, and commitment to locate appropriate health care. This research also reveals the crucial role community support agencies play in directing individuals towards the necessary health care. But most especially, the evidence points to the role community support agencies play as key facilitators in the legal processes of mental health courts.