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Courting Compliance: Case Managers as “Double Agents” in the Mental Health Court

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An ethnographic study of four Midwest mental health courts was focused on how case managers influence the judicial response to offender noncompliance. Mental health courts, which bear little resemblance to traditional work group models, are staffed by teams of legal and social service professionals working collaboratively toward reducing recidivism and community reintegration for high-risk offenders. Few studies, however, have explored how treatment providers practice their trade in this new court organization. I investigate how case management professionals, working at the intersections of the social welfare and criminal justice systems, leverage courtroom decision making that results in greater leniency or enhanced punishment. The findings suggest that mental-health-court case managers act as boundary spanners in terms of their strategic use of resources to facilitate treatment goals. I conclude that case managers act as “double agents” challenging the state to advocate for clemency while enforcing client rules to uphold the integrity of the court.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-03-01

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