William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Maria Slater


This Article compares the levels of procedural justice afforded to persons with severe mental illness in the civil and criminal systems, either via involuntary commitment in state psychiatric hospitals in the civil system or via mental health court as an alternative to incarceration in the criminal system. Using Virginia’s mental health courts and civil commitment systems as case studies, this Article compares the procedures by which a person can be involuntary committed in the civil system with those afforded to persons who are funneled into mental health treatment courts in the criminal system, analyzing how levels of procedural justice—both actual and perceived—affect treatment outcomes. The underlying premise of this Article is that the higher the level of perceived procedural fairness, the higher the likelihood that a person with acute mental illness will comply with treatment. This Article ultimately suggests that certain aspects of procedural due process in the mental health court model should be utilized in the civil commitment system in order to effect positive treatment outcomes by increasing perceived levels of procedural fairness and resultant buy-in to treatment.