This Part I in a series of instructional material on jail diversion programs, addresses the features of jail programs that address the needs of inmates with mental health and substance-use disorders.
This is a priority issue for jails because individuals with mental-health and substance-use disorders are overrepresented and under-treated in the criminal justice system. One of the recommended ways to address such individuals’ needs is to identify their needs and “divert” them from standard criminal justice processing to programs and services that address their identified health needs. Those committed to jail should be tested for serious mental illness (SMI), substance-use disorders (SUDs), or co-occurring disorders (CODs). Those diagnosed with one or more of these disorders should be diverted from standard incarceration into evidence-based appropriate treatment while ensuring public safety based on risk assessment. The current paper is the first of a two-part series that provides instruction in diversion in criminal justice processing for those with various health needs. One topic discussed in this paper addresses “exit points,” i.e., points in criminal justice processing at which diversion programs may be appropriate. The “exit points” discussed are pre-arrest, pre-charges, and pre-sentencing stages. These are stages in criminal justice processing when it is appropriate to determine whether a treatment regimen should be introduced instead of proceeding with standard criminal justice processing. Diversion programs appropriate for these exit points are described as recommended under the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP).