Book Review: Therapeutic Justice

By | 6th June 2019


Therapeutic Justice
Karen A. Snedker, Springer International Publishing Place Published: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland Date: 2018 Pages: 325 Price: Hardcover—$159.0 or Ebook—$119.00
ISBN: 978-3-319-78902-6


Review by Deborah-Rae Chizek, Concordia University of Edmonton


Therapeutic justice by Karen A. Snedker provides and insightful perspective from someone who has personally been touched by mental health and the legal system. Karen has conducted research in crime, urban sociology, and public health. She is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing in the Psychosocial and Community Health Department.

Therapeutic Justice gives two backgrounds 1) Snedker’s personal experiences of mental health and crime; 2) the history and development of the criminal justice system, as well as its transition from a purely punitive court to that of therapeutic justice. Her perspective is taken from a socio-legal approach, which mixes important aspects of the judicial system, economy, and crime, with urban sociology and public health. Snedker’s aim is not to pick apart flaws in the mental health courts, but to constructively layout data and information of the effects mental health courts have, and include ways of bettering them. The book highlights key aspects and includes chapters dedicated to Mental Health Courts as the new “New Generation” of problem solving, Clients and Therapeutic Agents: court selection and team dynamics, and Therapeutic Justice in Action: court process, reviews, and sanctions are just a few of the chapters that divulge how many factors are involved in succession of therapeutic justice.

The intent of this book is to educate workers of mental health court in order to enhance treatment from a holistic, effective approach thereby reducing recidivism rates. Any persons interested in becoming acquainted with what mental health courts can do, and how they should be utilized, would gain a clearer understand from this work. The book does an exemplary job of defining the use of the mental health courts, and gives clear guidelines of the execution and achievement of these courts. The judicial system highlighted in this book is the United States. There is no mention of how the mental health courts could be used outside of the country, but extensions of adapting the system are mentioned. There is no formula given for how to achieve success by using mental health courts; instead ways to mold the parameters of mental health courts to meet the needs of clients is encouraged, in order to find the treatment of best fit. Snedker accomplishes a highly effective book by describing relevant terminology in mental health court. The theoretical concept of therapeutic justice has been made even more tangible by this work. Looking at how therapeutic justice has been implemented and the success it is having, only increases the use and practicality of this system.

The book lays out a step by step sequence of immersion into the construct of mental health courts for all professionals who embrace interprofessional practice. Interprofessional involvement means that all fields of workers such as: judges, social workers, parole officers, and health practitioners including psychologists, nurses, and occupational therapists for example play a role in mental health court to provide holistic and comprehensive rehabilitation. The writing style is clear and concise giving the reader relevant information of the procedures and how they can play a role in the betterment of persons involved in mental health court. Overall, the book demonstrates the interconnectedness of roles from different fields of work, and how they must work together to support individuals.

This book is highly recommended to anyone beginning employment or research in mental health court. As well as other court and justice professionals who would like to incorporate aspects of therapeutic justice into their work.