From Dr. Broderick: Why Jail Diversion Makes Sense
Public health and public safety go hand in hand. As we improve one, we also advance the other. Jail diversion programs—increasing in communities around the Nation—are perfect examples of this idea.
Nonviolent offenders, especially those with mental illnesses or substance use disorders, are placed in treatment rather than in jail or on the streets. To create specialty courts, including mental health courts and drug treatment courts, treatment providers, law enforcement officers, and judges join forces to help individuals end the continuing cycle of arrest, release, and re-arrest.
Dr. Eric B. Broderick, Acting SAMHSA Administrator
These courts are the “problem-solving” wave of the future. They provide screening and assessment, alcohol and drug treatment, mental health services, recovery support, and other services to nonviolent offenders. (See the SAMHSA News cover story.)
For more than a decade, SAMHSA has provided grant funding for a variety of jail diversion programs. That legacy continues today through effective collaborations that include the Agency’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT).
This year, SAMHSA is helping to fund jail diversion programs for adults and youth, re-entry programs for young offenders, and trauma-sensitive diversion programs that offer priority to veterans. CSAT is also collaborating with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to support existing juvenile drug courts.
One of the hallmarks of a successful jail diversion program is its ability to connect people to the treatment they need. A successful program in Blacksburg, VA, is featured in SAMHSA News.
Cost savings is another hallmark of jail diversion. Studies of various state diversion programs show considerable savings compared to the cost of incarceration.
Shifting the focus of care from episodes of acute symptoms toward the management of long-term recovery, these courts engage the individual as a partner in recovery and rehabilitation. With the focus on recovery, individuals stand a better chance of returning to their communities as productive citizens.