Les Tribunaux de santé mentale : déjudiciarisation et jurisprudence thérapeutique
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In Québec, as elsewhere in North America, psychiatric deinstitutionalization, lack of community mental health resources as well as legislative changes to civil and criminal codes have led to an increased probability that individuals with a mental illness come into contact with the criminal justice system. Based on the principle of therapeutic jurisprudence, mental health courts constitute emerging diversion programs, taking place within the court, implemented to offer an alternative to incarceration for individuals with a mental illness. This article offers a critical synthesis of the scientific literature on the topic. The authors first present the context in which mental health courts were developed ; describe their objectives and functioning ; and introduce the Montreal Mental Health Court pilot project, renamed PAJ-SM (Plan d'Accompagnement Justice et Santé) the first of its kind in Québec. The paper examines the research on mental health courts and tackles some of the stakes of diversion programs. The challenges and limits inherent to specialized courts are discussed as well as methodological obstacles related to the study of these complex intervention programs. The authors conclude that mental health courts offer promising intervention venues, but that they do not constitute a panacea to resolving all issues related to the contact of mentally ill individuals with the justice system. Mental health courts must be accompanied by other intervention strategies for persons with mental health problems at all stages of the criminal justice process.
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