Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Victoria, Australia
"Striking a balance between retribution and rehabilitation has been made more difficult by mounting evidence indicating that incarceration and even court processes often aggravates offender mental health problems. Subsequently, the same offenders get stuck in a "revolving door" criminal justice experience, where the underlying problems are not just ignored, they are often worsened.
"We had one man with an intellectual disability who was so terrified of being in a court room that he cut-up all his clothes just before he walked in, because he thought that would mean he wouldn't have to attend" says Viv Mortell, program manager of the court. "In this setting it's less formal, it's a problem solving approach and participants are put on individual support plans with achievable goals like going to see a neurologist or joining a community group."
The mental health Assessment and Referral Court (ARC List) at the Melbourne Magistrate Court began operation in April this year. The $13 million, three-year pilot aims to rehabilitate people who have a significant mental illness, impairment, brain injury or intellectual disability which contributes or causes them to commit crime by addressing the underlying factors which lead to their offending behavior.
The ARC List follows similar courts in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, although its hybrid model is derived largely from Toronto's Mental Health Court and Diversion program. The ARC List's round-table, discussion based approach comes from Victoria's Koori Court."