Medicine, Science, and the Law

Knowledge of evidence-based practices for PTSD among mental health court judges

Mental health courts offer access to community-based care for defendants with psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, limited information is available on how judges make treatment decisions about evidence-based practices. In this qualitative study, we interviewed mental health court judges to evaluate: (1) perspectives toward the role of PTSD in criminal behavior; (2) knowledge about evidence-based practice for PTSD; (3) treatment decisions for defendants with PTSD; and (4) treatment decisions for defendants at risk for suicide, a common comorbidity with PTSD. We hypothesized that mental health court judges would report low familiarity with evidence-based practices for PTSD despite wide recognition of the impact of trauma on criminal behavior.