Mental Health, Law, Criminal Courts – About

View of Iqaluit

Mental Health, Law, Criminal Courts – About

Mental health rehabilitation, criminal courts and therapeutic jurisprudence

My research helps bridge the interdisciplinary gap between mental health rehabilitation from the discipline of rehabilitation science and the legal practice that informs criminal court responses to people with mental illness. Criminal court mental health initiatives that divert people with mental illness away from prosecution and into mental health treatment have emerged as a practical response to the disproportionate numbers of people with mental illness caught up in the criminal justice system. These initiatives seek to provide a “rehabilitative response” to people with mental illness instead of prosecution or jail. Despite recognition that these initiatives include a therapeutic response as a key animating principle, they developed from within the practice and discipline of law.  Meanwhile, within the separate discipline of rehabilitation science, scholarship and approaches to mental health rehabilitation have witnessed significant developments in recent decades.  My research explores how a greater consideration of contemporary concepts from mental health rehabilitation, such as recovery and the role of culture, in criminal court thinking, can improve efforts to respond to people with mental illness.

I also explore how the rehabilitative aims of a new and transformative area of legal scholarship called therapeutic jurisprudence can benefit from rehabilitation science. Therapeutic jurisprudence, which is the philosophical foundation for mental health courts and other arenas that affect people with disabilities, seeks to maximize the law’s potential for therapeutic outcomes by improving the psychological and emotional well-being of those affected by the legal process. It does so by reaching across discipline boundaries to include the social and health sciences in this interdisciplinary endeavour.  Yet, in practical terms, how therapeutic jurisprudence is being realized by criminal court mental health initiatives suggests a lack of clarity surrounding the meaning of “interdisciplinary” in this context.  There is a tendency to see the goals of these initiatives from the perspective of mainly justice objectives first, and if therapeutic outcomes are considered, to discuss only clinical metrics such as mental health service utilization etc.  My research examines how contemporary mental health rehabilitation approaches, including the recovery model, can contribute to the interdisciplinary aim of therapeutic jurisprudence to improve its theoretical and practical validity.