Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


The American Bar Association's revision of its Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards ("Standards"), promulgated in August 2016, tackles a wide range of issues concerning the involvement of people with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system. Consisting of over ninety black letter provisions, the Standards address diversion and specialized courts; the role of mental health professionals, the police, lawyers and correctional officials in cases involving people with mental disabilities; and the law and processes associated with competency, insanity, commitment, and capital and non-capital sentencing. This article describes the genesis of the Standards and explains their content, organized in terms of three goals: (1) ensuring fair and humane treatment of people with mental disabilities, (2) promoting reliability in cases involving offenders with a mental condition, and (3) protecting the autonomy and dignity of people with mental disabilities.