Mental health courts provide an offender with judicial supervision while receiving community mental health treatment and other services. The purpose of these courts is to reduce criminal activity and improve the quality of life for participants. Mental health courts were established to make better use of limited criminal justice and mental health resources, to connect individuals to treatment and other social services within the community, improve outcomes for offenders with mental health illnesses, to respond to public safety concerns, and to address detention facility overcrowding and the disproportionate number of people with mental illnesses within the criminal justice system. Participation in a mental health court is voluntary and the defendant must consent to participation. The main goal of the mental health court is to divert mentally ill offenders to appropriate treatment and services in order to reduce incarceration time (Mental Health Courts, 2015).
According to the DSM-5 Manual, pedophilic disorders are not clearly linked to criminal behavior or defined as a psychiatric condition all together. The manual does specify that to be diagnosed with such a disorder, one does not have to act upon their urges, but simply just possessing these urges presents evidence of a disorder. However, urges alone are not enough to be considered to have a disorder. In order to be considered to have a disorder, the urges must also cause some sort of distress or other difficulties (Journal of the, 2015). Therefore, with no clear link between a pedophilic disorder and criminal behavior, or a link to a mental disorder all together, the judge should not have differed Mr. Snodgrass to a mental health court.
There are several other alternatives more appropriate for Mr. Snodgrass. First, the judge could find Mr. Snodgrass guilty, but sentence him to probation with mandated psychiatric treatment. This way Mr. Snodgrass’ actions will be on his permanent record, and he will receive treatment to help with his condition while avoiding jail time. Second, the judge may find Mr. Snodgrass guilty; sentence him to jail time, and then mandate treatment while serving his sentence (University, 2013). However, if this is Mr. Snodgrass’ first offense, the judge should go with the probation option before sentencing Mr. Snodgrass to incarceration.
The given scenario consists of an individual that was arrested at a local park playground for attempting to look up little girl’s skirts while they played on the monkey bars. The little girls were around the ages of five and six years old. The individual’s lawyer claims that the individual suffers from heterosexual pedophilia disorder. The lawyer also claims that the individual only looks due to the disorder, but that he has never touched a little girl. The judge allowed the individual to voluntarily enter a diversion program for the new mental health court.
Mental health courts generally deal with non-violent offenders that have been previously diagnosed with a mental health problem or mental health problem in conjunction with a substance abuse disorder (BJA, n.d.). There are currently more than one-hundred fifty mental health courts within the United States (BJA, n.d.). These types of courts offer a variety of services that include: voluntary in patient or outpatient mental health treatment using the least restrictive manner applicable as determined by the court, life skills training, placement, healthcare, relapse prevention, continuous supervision of treatment plan compliance, and psychiatric care (BJA, n.d.). Utilizing services determined to be appropriate by the mental health court offers the individual the potential to have charges dismissed or a reduced sentencing upon successful completion of treatment (BJA, n.d.).
Heterosexual and homosexual are only orientation of sexual desire. The specific orientation of the individual’s disorder does not impact the actual disorder, but it does suggest the individual’s targets. Pedophilia is considered to be an actual mental disorder as classified by the American Psychiatric Association (Web MD, 2015). There is big difference between pedophiles and child molesters; mainly desires and actions (Web MD, 2015). Pedophiles are diagnosed with pedophilic disorder when their desires and attractions towards children interfere with their lives in ways such as: guilt, anxiety, alienation, difficulty pursuing goals, or if urges result in children being approached for sexual gratification (Web MD, 2015).
While the judge in the given scenario allowed the individual to have his case managed by the metal health court, there are other options as well. The individual may do well with treatment and relapse prevention ordered by the mental health court. Perhaps being prescribed medications to control sexual urges as well as therapy will control the urges he experiences from this disorder. However, the lawyer’s justification of his client’s condition being minimal is not accurate. There are plenty of other ways the individual could have fulfilled his desires and urges. Although child pornography is not legal, it is easily accessible on the internet, as are most things regardless of legality. The fact that the individual felt the need to approach little girls on a playground suggests that his disorder is affecting his actions. Perhaps the individual only behaves in this manner as it fulfills his desires currently. What happens when looking no longer suffices? The judge has a responsibility to consider the safety of the public. Consequences should be imposed for actions. The individual could still obtain help with the disorder while being ordered to remain out of society for a specific period of time. Additionally, the individual should have restrictions imposed that do not allow him in public areas where children tend to gather such as, parks and schools.
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