Document Type


Publication Title

Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Publication Date

Fall 2016



Page Number



mental health, criminal justice, American Bar Association


Criminal Law | Health Law and Policy | Law


In 1981, the American Bar Association ("ABA"), bolstered by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, decided to develop standards for governing the involvement of persons with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system. To accomplish this task the ABA established six task forces, each focused on a different topic, and each composed of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law professors, and mental health professionals well-known for their expertise about criminal mental health law. The result, promulgated in 1984 by the ABA's House of Delegates, was more than eighty black letter Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards, accompanied by commentary that spanned more than 400 pages in the first edition and over 500 pages in the second edition. Among other issues, the Mental Health Standards dealt with: (1) the role of mental health professionals in the criminal justice system; (2) the interaction between the police and people with mental disorders; (3) general issues concerning evaluations and testimony by mental health professionals; (4) competence to participate in the legal process; (5) the insanity defense and related defenses; (6) commitment of insanity acquittees; and (7) special commitment, sentencing, and prison issues that affect offenders with mental disorders.



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