LET’S TALK ABOUT….NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH COURT!!! Our criminal justice system is in crisis! Our substance abuse behaviors are in crises! Our mental health system is in crisis! Unfortunately, the three systems overlap resulting in the U.S. being the world’s largest jailers.

According to the Department of Justice, from the late 1970’s to 2014 the U.S. prison population increased 408%–we have made history by creating the highest rate of imprisonment in America ever. One in every 35 adults are in prison, in jail, or on parole and probation. This equates to approximately 6,851,000 persons; approximately 1.2 million of these persons are people with a DSM-V diagnosis (used by mental health professionals as a standard classification of mental disorders.)

All criminal behavior is not the same.

Let’s take a case of animal abuse: the crime of inflicting physical pain, suffering or death on an animal, usually a tame one, beyond necessity for normal discipline. (


“Criminal” thinking would include minimizing the behavior by using an excuse that people don’t like him so “they” caused him to do whatever he did.

Someone with a DSM-V diagnosis, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder , might say that he is interested in how things work by taking things apart and putting them back together; he wanted to know how the dog worked.


Illustration with word cloud on disease Autism

The job of the criminal justice system is to keep communities safe and treating people fairly that is cost-effective using tax dollars and public resources wisely in an evidence-based rather than fear-based manner.

Given the statistics the criminal justice system may not be working well: public safety, fairness, and cost-effectiveness.

Some of the reasons for the poor performance of the justice system could be:

  1. Not all “criminals” think the same;
  2. Is the ultimate outcome for punishment, or, rehabilitation;
  3. The need for expanded long-term community-based treatment.

Back to the animal abuse case above to determine sentencing:

-Punishment model: prison time that includes housing with other criminal thinkers; predicted outcome: offender is abused in custody, learns new improved ways of committing crimes, and the odds of returning are that 67% of inmates will return—highest number includes DSM-V diagnosis persons. That is IF they make it through the sentence—there are a high number of DSM-V diagnosis prisoners that commit suicide either while in prison, or shortly after getting out.

One DSM-V Autism Spectrum Disorder person, facing his first serious sentencing, told several of his “friends” that he was looking forward to going to prison because he would be able to make new friends and could play basketball all day.


-Rehabilitation model: Jillian Peterson, PhD, writing on criminal behaviors and DSM-V diagnosis’: “…programs designed to reduce recidivism for mentally ill offenders should be expanded beyond mental health treatment to include cognitive-behavioral treatment, anger management and other behavioral issues…”

The offender of the animal abuse case benefitted from taking an animal training class to learn how “dogs work”.

I am in no way insinuating that anyone with a DSM-V diagnosis hide behind the diagnosis and not take responsibility for their criminal offense. I am saying that the person accepting responsibility needs to understand what they did wrong.


Including the criminal cookie cutter court systems, there are also Drug Courts (based on what substance abusers need to be rehabilitated), and, Veterans Court (to address the particular crimes caused by unique psychological effects of being in war)—the next step needs to be a Mental Health Court that clearly understands the accuser is a Stranger in a Strange land and needs to be fairly treated.

Glad we talked about this. Of course, it is just my opinion.



Springfield Times

“Ask MAx” is published weekly in the Springfield Times, Springfield, OR. You can subscribe to the Springfield Times at


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