Uncomfortable Justice: Care and Conviction in California's Mental Health Courts


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Mental health courts (MHCs) are novel criminal courtrooms that aspire to move individuals whom the state has convicted of a crime and diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder out of jails and into community mental health programs. Rather than merely outsource clinical care, these criminal courts actively manage and administer mental health care to individuals in their charge. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in MHCs and their attendant clinical spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, this dissertation examines the systems of evidence and ethics practiced in courtrooms-made-clinics. How does structural change in the criminal justice system reorganize political and affective relationships between offenders—considered clients in this context—and the state? The project hews closely to interpersonal relationships between clients and courtroom professionals to ask how care influences and directs statecraft.