Making the abject: problem-solving courts, addiction, mental illness and impairment

Claire Spivakovsky, Kate Seear

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The advent of ‘problem-solving courts’ (e.g. drug courts, mental health courts and lists) is claimed by some to represent a significant shift in the administration of justice, through the adoption of a more ‘holistic’ and ‘generous’ approach to offenders. Although there is a large body of research examining the operation and efficacy of such courts, there is minimal critical research on how these courts conceptualise both ‘problems’ and ‘problem populations’, or the various implications thereof. In this chapter, we examine these issues via the theoretical framework of Carol Bacchi. Bacchi argues that policy ‘problems’ do not precede policy interventions, but that ‘problems’ are in fact constituted by and given meaning through implicit policy representations. This chapter extends this work further, considering how two Australian problem-solving courts (Victoria’s drug court and mental health list) conceptualise their target populations and the ‘problems’ they seek to solve in relation to them. The chapter considers how these processes constitute particular subjects (‘addicts’, the ‘disabled’ and the ‘mentally ill’) as abnormal, fixing connections, in the process, between drugs, disability, mental illness, normalcy and crime.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Coercive Interventions
Subtitle of host publicationLaw, Medicine and Society
EditorsClaire Spivanovsky, Kate Seear, Adrian Carter
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315158693
ISBN (Print)9781138067370
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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