The Mental Health Court in Winnebago County, known as the Therapeutic Intervention Program or “T.I.P.”, officially convened on February 9, 2005. This specialized court, similar to the drug court model, collaborates with the Janet Wattles Center to work with offenders who have a serious mental illness, to provide improved access to treatment and community services in an effort to reduce future criminal activity and incarceration in the jail.
Nationally and locally, a disproportionate number of persons with mental illness have continued to be incarcerated as funding for community based treatment programs has decreased and most state run psychiatric hospitals have closed. A snapshot of the Winnebago County Jail in 2004 revealed that an estimated 14 percent of our own jail population had a serious mental illness.
The Therapeutic Intervention Program, like other specialized problem-solving courts, offers innovative alternatives to traditional court proceedings and provides the potential for substantial savings to Winnebago County by stopping the revolving door of crime and mental illness. In this new program, soon after a person is arrested, a mental health professional conducts a detailed psychological assessment to diagnose any serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, and then a team of legal, court services, and mental health professionals screen the case for eligibility. If acceptable and eligible, a defendant may agree to participate in the program and be released from jail with an individual treatment plan and services in place. It is hoped that judicial monitoring, enhanced accountability and continued linkage with needed structure will encourage adherence to treatment and avoidance of future criminal behavior.
- All criminal misdemeanor offenses are eligible for the T.I.P. All Class 2, 3, and 4 felonies that do not involve bodily harm or threat of bodily harm or mandatory penitentiary time are eligible for the T.I.P.
- All misdemeanor and felony domestic violence offenses must also have the consent of the victim and the judge.
- All misdemeanor offenses that involve a weapon are excluded unless the defendant’s mental illness is a causative factor in the offense.
- The following offenses are excluded:
- Driving under the influence
- Residential burglary
- Criminal fortification
- All non-probational drug offenses
- All offenses involving deadly substances
- All offenses involving anhydrous ammonia equipment, containers, and facilities
- All escape offenses
- The following felony offenses may be considered even though they involve bodily harm, if mental illness is a causative factor in the offense:
- Threatening a public official
Other Eligibility Factors
- Defendant must have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revised (DSM-IV-TR) as an Axis I disorder (e.g. Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Major Depression).
- There must be a causal connection between the mental illness and the Crime.
- Defendant must be willing to cooperate with the court and with an approved treatment agency and sign all releases of information required by the court.
- Defendant must be screened and approved by the T.I.P. team.
The Mental Health Court links people with mental illness to services. By providing treatment to help mentally ill persons deal with their mental illness and related criminal behaviors, recidivism is reduced. A reduction in recidivism will result in cost savings to the community because fewer people are returning to jail, court, probation, and prison.