Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Deborah Laufersweiler-dwyer


Many large urban juvenile probation departments have begun to utilize mental health courts to meet the demands of the increasing number of individuals who have mental health issues that end up in the juvenile justice system. Diversion programs are designed to keep youth in the community and out of the juvenile justice system, but it is not clear whether these programs keep individuals from re-offending. Therefore, this study was conducted to determine whether diversion programs used in the mental health courts are helping to decrease recidivism for juveniles identified with mental illness. This study was also aimed at identifying how mental illnesses affect successful completion of programming. The theory of therapeutic jurisprudence was used as the theoretical foundation to help guide this quantitative, quasi-experimental study and answer the research questions. The data utilized was from a large urban juvenile probation department, which uses the mental health court as a diversion program. Data was collected from 2009 to 2017 on both youth who participated in the program and those who chose not to participate in the program. Chi-square and logistic regression were used to analyze the data. Based on the chi-square, recidivism rates were significantly impacted by participation in the mental health court. The data presented demonstrated mental health court is effective at reducing recidivism. The potential is there for positive social change in the treatment of youth with mental illness both in the community and the juvenile justice system.