Research suggests that good community services may be the actual key to success after discharge. However, conditional release can be viewed as an official affirmation of skepticism about an individual's prospects in the community service system. By relying on this legal tactic, mental health professionals turn to the courts for what should be regarded as a sentinel clinical problem: a substantial number of people with the serious mental illnesses common in the public mental health system are at extreme risk of relapse. In obtaining court orders to push engagement with the existing service array, the system tacitly endorses as adequate the 15-minute outpatient "therapy" sessions often available to these individuals and suggests that limited professional know-how offers no recourse but the legal system. Beyond being inconsistent with the science, this sense of hopelessness, unthinkingly expressed in routine court documents, sends a disparaging message to mental health consumers and to society.