In 1999, Seattle became one of the first cities in the country to establish a special Municipal Court program for defendants with mental illnesses. The move is still paying off, officials told the City Council on Monday.
Defendants are referred to Seattle’s Mental Health Court by judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, jail staff and others, and the program is voluntary.
Between 2008 and 2010, of the 53 defendants who chose to participate, 62 percent completed the program, court officials said, citing a December 2013 report.
Just 24 percent of defendants who completed the program had one or more jail bookings in the next two years, while 95 -percent of defendants who didn’t complete the program had at least one booking, according to the report.
Defendants who completed the program spent a total of 211 fewer days in jail in the next two years than they spent behind bars in the two years prior.
Defendants who chose not to participate in Mental Health Court but who received court-directed mental health services anyway were also less likely to return to jail, the report found.
One result: More than $200,000 in cost-savings to the city, the officials said.