The American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards: Revisions for the Twenty-First Century
37 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2016 Last revised: 12 Mar 2017
Date Written: December 13, 2016
This article is an examination of the American Bar Association’s newly adopted Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards, organized around three goals that permeate the Standards. The first goal is ensuring that people with mental disabilities who encounter the criminal justice system are treated humanely and fairly. Achieving this goal requires a delicate balance between providing the treatment necessary to ensure the safety and health of these individuals and avoiding interventions that are not legally necessary. A second goal is to promote reliable case outcomes. This goal requires substantive doctrines that recognize the mitigating impact of mental disabilities and an adequate evaluation system that permits clinicians to gather the information they need to address legal questions; treatment is an important element of this goal as well when necessary to enable a defendant's meaningful participation in the legal proceedings. The third goal is to honor the autonomy of people with mental disabilities by ensuring their desires and decisions are accorded appropriate respect by their own lawyers and the rest of the criminal justice system. The Standards adopt the position that competent defendants should have the power not only to participate but also to control the most important aspects of their cases.
Keywords: mental disability, competency, insanity, death penalty, forensic evaluations, mental health system
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation