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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Center for Community Engagement


Outcomes of National Jail Diversion Programs For Individuals With Mental Illnesses or Substance Use Disorders: A Comparison to the Criminal Justice System As Is

  • Author(s): Paccone, Julia C.
  • et al.

Deinstitutionalization funneled individuals with mental illnesses out of so-called asylums and into the streets with no treatment plan, medication, or access to care. Although initially it was just an easy way to reallocate government funding, it sparked a systemic change in which individuals with mental illnesses are now primarily treated by the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system does not effectively treat or rehabilitate these individuals and often does more harm than good, creating criminal sanctions, homelessness, negative medical and mental health outcomes, and isolation. As a solution, jurisdictions have begun implementing diversion programs. Two programs are implemented on a national basis: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and Crisis Intervention Teams International. In comparison to the criminal justice system and arrest and prosecution as is, these programs appear to have much more positive outcomes. They both have completely different structures with one similar goal in mind: find an alternative solution for individuals for whom jail will be detrimental to their mental and overall well-being. These programs divert individuals who have committed low-level crimes, who are acting out because of a mental illness or substance use disorder, or who are in crisis. Together, they provide an alternative to the criminal justice system that may thoroughly rehabilitate and treat individuals and remove them from the revolving door of recidivism.

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