The Nation – mental health and the courts

On The Nation, following on from last week: Perpetrators or patients?

More than 90 percent of prison inmates have a diagnosis of mental health or substance abuse disorder – so is New Zealand doing enough to divert these people away from jail?

Mike Wesley-Smith investigates, in association with the Mental Health Foundation.

This morning:

In part 2 of ‘s investigation into mental health in the criminal justice system, he’ll look at the courts.

How experimental new courts could lead to lower re-offending rates for those suffering from mental illness.


Michelle Kidd gets up early every day to bring food to homeless people, she says some beg to go to prison for a good night’s sleep.

2700 people last year ended up getting a health appointment in a place of detention.

Sir Ron Young says sentencing people with mental health issues to prison is pointless.

The New Beginnings court has reduced reoffending rates by 66%, number of homeless reduced from 16 to 3 in 6 months.

That sounds impressive. It’s worth expanding.


Therapeutic courts

There are 3 therapeutic courts in New Zealand: 2 in Auckland and 1 in Wellington within the criminal District Court system.

Therapeutic courts aim to reduce reoffending, alcohol, drug use, and addiction. They try to help a person’s health and well-being so they can move on with their lives. If someone appears before a therapeutic court, they’re sentenced in the same way and the same laws apply as in other New Zealand courts.

You can’t choose to appear before a therapeutic court. You or your lawyer can ask a judge to go through the court but a judge may say you can’t. Therapeutic courts are for people who have committed less serious offending and who have admitted their guilt.  This court does not hear serious offences like sexual offences.

Alcohol & drug courts

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts are at Waitakere District Court and Auckland District Court. They’re designed to supervise offenders whose offending is driven by their alcohol and other drug dependency.

New Beginnings & Special Circumstances court

The New Beginnings Court Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou is aimed at homeless people in Auckland. The Special Circumstances Court is aimed at homeless people in Wellington.

If you get accepted into one of these courts, you can get help to address issues in your life that contribute to your offending.

This is a voluntary court. People going through it can choose to withdraw and be returned to the normal court system at any time.

Part 3 of ‘s series will look at people with mental health issues in prison… tune in next week

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  1. Gezza

     /  29th April 2017

    These special courts all sound like sensible options. I hope they have the resources available to suceed in their objectives of stopping offending & getting people the help they need.

    • Agreed Gezza. Finally the general barbarity and “naive quackery” of Western Secular-Christendom’s criminal law is beginning to unravel and be meaningfully reconstructed …

      “Economic anxiety and distress … the oppressive life in dismal slums … the irritating contrasts in standards of living, the temptation to obtain by crime that which otherwise is unobtainable – all these motives for crime should disappear in the future …

      If, however, crime is committed, treatment will be directed not against the act but to the culprit, so as to ensure he does not err again …” (Warner, ‘Future of Man’ 1944)

      … the rest will follow …

  2. John Schmidt

     /  30th April 2017

    I have always wondered the story behind the person for anyone living on the streets. What has happened in their lives that resulted in them on the streets.
    Living on tbe streets is not a new thing. I came from a small town to Wellington in the early 1970’s and rough living was common with a number living in tbe basin reserve and surrounding areas with begging in the CBD everywhere. I was even approached on the Picton Ferry by someone begging.
    Is it not possible to move the ambulance from the bottom of the cliff to the top catching the vulnerable before they begin their destructive journey that ultimately has them on the streets.

    • Blazer

       /  30th April 2017

      when you have a govt who promotes homelessness,by selling state houses,leaving them empty,and encourages foreign buyers to buy up the existing housing stock along with speculators ,the result is….people living on the streets and in cars.Yes it has been around a long time…but now the numbers have exploded.

  3. What exactly is this “cliff” we all talk about so frequently …?

    Is it entirely an image-measurement of personal ‘fall’, a self-destructive “journey” for which the individual is wholey and completely responsible; themselves alone …?

    I think not. We use the term in relation to health, crime and other social issues … in relation to collectives, communities and masses of people.

    We use the term exceedingly imprecisely …

    • Anonymous Coward

       /  1st May 2017

      It’s not a cliff, it’s an ‘ambulance at the bottom’ – a metaphor for help that comes too late. You’re overthinking it.

    • Use of the cliff image always makes me think: Why, as a community – in addition to trying to stop people wilfully or foolishly ‘jumping’ off the cliff – don’t we also –

      1) Try to reduce the height of the cliff?

      2) Try to reduce the frequency of people ‘circumstantially’ falling off it?

      I at least partially agree with you John Schmidt that it would be very interesting to know the personal stories of many homeless people – not a media selected few – and hear what some of the personal & social issues are …

      I don’t believe, for instance, that you can assign a person’s alcohol and/or drug “destructive journey” entirely to that person alone. Society plays a part, if in no other way than by – and due to the ramifications of – deciding the legality or illegality of various substances …

      • Anonymous Coward

         /  1st May 2017

        If ‘the cliff’ is a predetermined affliction (alcoholism, homelessness, mental illness) then the height of the cliff is also predetermined. As John say’s ‘it’s not possible to move the ambulance to the top’,and if the top is a predetermined height – then the answer is to build a higher ambulance that people can step onto more easily, maybe.

        • And what of “a fence at the top” … ?

          • Anonymous Coward

             /  1st May 2017

            In keeping with the metaphor, that would be magically ridding the world of alcoholism, homelessness, mental illness etc. for societal problems it’s technically possible, but probably not so much for the personal.

  4. Roger Woodgate

     /  11th May 2017

    I have good reason to have the belief that nutters never should have been released into the community. There are too many that make victims and don’t give me the nonsense of they can’t help it. The victims can’t help it and they are not at fault. The nutters soon learn they can get away with a lot of crimes and are crafty enough to play on it. The authorities wont sort them out but I have. There are two types of nutters, the dangerous ones and the dead ones. If that attitude is not liked, then perhaps more should be done to protect the ordinary people and don’t waste time and money on the criminals whether they be sane or nutters. I must apologise if I said anything politically correct.

    • Blazer

       /  11th May 2017

      you basically used alot of words to say not much at…all.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  11th May 2017

        I think he’s saying he had a bad experience and he’s generalising extravagantly and recklessly from it. We have enough politicians doing that without encouraging them.

  5. Roger Woodgate

     /  11th May 2017

    I think Blazer needs to learn how to read and understand, and Alan Wilkinson needs to get into the real World. As I said previously, too much consideration for criminal nutters because of social workers with.silly idears. It just helps the nutters make more victims.


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