It’s Mental Health Week in Canada! As reported on April 14 (read out blog post here), the Regina Mental Health Disposition Court: A Formative Investigation, a document prepared by Dr. Michelle Stewart and Brittany Mario with support from Dr. Stewart’s research team at the University of Regina, has been formally released. The full report is accessible here.
Dr. Michelle Stewart presented the findings of the report to community members and media on April 14, 2016. You can access the media reports through the links below:
The media representation of the Regina Mental Health Disposition Court report highlight the success of the court to-date in working with individuals who present with mental illness or cognitive conditions, such as FASD. The media also aptly reports that there is a continued need for increased resources within the court including a dedicated psychologist for assessments, legal aid support, and a coordinator.
Although the court has produced positive outcomes, there is more to be done in supporting individuals who may encounter the criminal justice system with mental illness or cognitive conditions. The court, when possible, seeks to support individuals in the community. Of the 36 concluded cases in the two-year period of research, only 5 individuals were sentenced to a period of incarceration. The majority were given community dispositions. This is significant when one considers that all individuals were facing potential jail time at the time they were referred to mental health court. As Dr. Stewart suggests, “I don’t think this is a case of getting out of jail free, but rather asking, ‘What’s the purpose of jail?’”. The Regina Mental Health Disposition Court is by no means a solution to the overrepresentation of individuals presenting with mental illness or cognitive conditions in the criminal justice system. The court does, however, make it possible for these individuals to move through the criminal justice system in a more meaningful way.
-Alexandra Johnson (Research Assistant for Dr. Michelle Stewart)