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Abstract

The number of mental health courts in the United States is rapidly increasing, from one in 1997 to nearly 100 in 2004. However, to date there is comparatively little research regarding these specialty courts. The present study reports data on the referral and disposition decision-making processes of seven mental health courts. Information on all referrals to the seven courts over a three-month period was gathered. Results show that, in comparison with individuals involved in the criminal justice system, mental health court clients are more likely to be older, White, and women than individuals in the general criminal justice system. Furthermore, this over-representation occurs at the point of referral, rather than at the point of the court's decision to accept or reject a referral. In addition, the length of time from referral to diversion is much longer in these mental health courts than in other types of diversion programs. Implications of these findings are discussed. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.