In 2010, Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and Chief Judge Gerald Kinney launched Will County Mental Health Court, which is designed to provide judicial monitoring and critical treatment services to qualifying criminal defendants who suffer from mental illnesses.
The Mental Health Court team evaluates prospective candidates for possible participation in the program. Candidates must be diagnosed as having a mental disorder or a co-occurring disorder, the latter of which is a mental illness combined with and an addiction.
The mission of the Mental Health Court is to establish a court team that closely monitors qualifying criminal defendants while providing them with comprehensive mental health services. The intensive program, which is voluntary, includes mandatory drug testing, sanctions, incentives and professional support to keep defendants on track.
Participation in Mental Health Court helps defendants manage their psychiatric conditions and enables them to function as law-abiding citizens. The team assists participants in understanding how managing their condition can keep them from engaging in criminal activity and eliminates their negative contacts with local police. The process also involves improving their relationships with family members and friends who can provide them with important support.
Each defendant is carefully screened before being admitted to Mental Health Court. Anyone who has been convicted of or charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, a sex offense, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, stalking or any offense involving the discharge of a firearm is barred from participation. Defendants charged with other crimes may not be allowed to participate depending upon the unique circumstances of their individual cases.
Mental Health Courts were inspired by the success of other problem-solving courts, including Drug Courts and Domestic Violence Courts. The first Mental Health Court began in 1997; today eight have opened in Illinois and more than 200 are operating across the United States.