Book Review, 0419 UTBJ, Vol. 32, No. 2. 47

AuthorJudge Ginger Lerner-Wren with Rebecca A. Eckland
PositionVol. 32 2 Pg. 47

Book Review

Vol. 32 No. 2 Pg. 47

Utah Bar Journal

April, 2019



A Court

of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America's First

Mental Health Court


Ginger Lerner-Wren with Rebecca A. Eckland


by Judge Heather Brereton


A Court of Refuge, Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren details the

creation and evolution of the first mental health court in

the United States, the Broward County Mental Health Court.

The court began on June 24,1997, held during the lunch hour

of Judge Lerner-Wren's criminal calendar. Judge

Lerner-Wren's court serves individuals charged with

misdemeanor criminal offenses who suffer from psychiatric

disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well

as those with traumatic brain injuries, cognitive disorders,

and dementia. A Court of Refuge is an approachable

mix of the philosophy and workings of Judge Lerner-Wren's

therapeutic court, her personal experiences both in and out

of mental health court, and the case histories or stories of

several participants in her court.


case histories cited by Judge Lerner-Wren show how the

failure of state mental health systems to adequately treat

and support those with mental illness leads individuals into

the criminal justice system. She details how many mentally

ill individuals languish in jails where their mental

illnesses oftentimes go untreated. She begins the book with

the story of Aaron Winn, a Florida man who deteriorated

mentally after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a

motorcycle accident. As a result, he spent two years in

Florida mental hospitals after which he was released into the

community with no further treatment or care plan. He had a

psychotic episode during which he knocked an elderly lady to

the ground where she hit a cement curb and later died from

the injuries caused by the fall. Mr. Winn entered the Florida

criminal justice system, charged with first degree murder.

Those involved in and concerned about Mr. Winn's case

influenced the creation of the Broward County Mental Health



book does a good job of detailing the very real problem of

the criminalization of mental illness facing courts in

Florida and nationwide. A Court of Refuge traces the

history of this country's treatment of the mentally ill

and discusses reform movements meant to address mental

illness, from those of Dorothea Dix to policy changes

attempted by John Kennedy through the Community Mental Health

Act of 1963. The author explains how...

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