Mental health services costs within the Alberta criminal justice system

Philip Jacobs, Jessica Moffatt, Carolyn S Dewa, Thanh Nguyen, Ting Zhang, Alain Lesage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background Mental illness has been widely cited as a driver of costs in the criminal justice system. Objective The objective of this paper is to estimate the additional mental health service costs incurred within the criminal justice system that are incurred because of people with mental illnesses who go through the system. Our focus is on costs in Alberta. Methods We set up a model of the flow of all persons through the criminal justice system, including police, court, and corrections components, and for mental health diversion, review, and forensic services. We estimate the transitional probabilities and costs that accrue as persons who have been charged move through the system. Costs are estimated for the Alberta criminal justice system as a whole, and for the mental illness component. Results Public expenditures for each person diverted or charged in Alberta in the criminal justice system, including mental health costs, were $16,138. The 95% range of this estimate was from $14,530 to $19,580. Of these costs, 87% were for criminal justice services and 13% were for mental illness-related services. Hospitalization for people with mental illness who were reviewed represented the greatest additional cost associated with mental illnesses. Conclusion Treatment costs stemming from mental illnesses directly add about 13% onto those in the criminal justice system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-108
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • Costs
  • Criminal justice
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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