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Comprehensive Jail Diversion Program-Mental Health Court Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2012
60 pages
The Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning of Iowa's Department of Human Rights reports on its legislatively mandated study of the feasibility of establishing a comprehensive statewide jail diversion program for nonviolent jail inmates with diagnosed mental illness.
Although one of the requirements of the legislative mandate for this study was to consider the feasibility of establishing a demonstration mental health court in Iowa, this directive was not examined, since Iowa currently has two mental health courts in operation and one under consideration. This study thus recommends that the State dedicate resources to evaluating existing jail diversion and mental health court programs in the State, including cost-benefit analyses. Information obtained from such evaluations could indicate the feasibility of operating a statewide system of mental health courts that would divert nonviolent defendants from pretrial jail detention. Another recommendation is that the State brings together representatives from key State and advocacy agencies for the purpose of expanding mental health services for persons involved in the justice system. In the area of prevention, the study recommends ways to prevent or minimize mentally ill persons' contact with the criminal justice system. These prevention efforts should promote early intervention with appropriate services, including recovery services that focus on housing, transportation, and employment. Other recommendations pertain to the features of criminal justice diversion programs for mentally ill offenders, the operation of mental health courts, and the State-level funding and responsibilities required for a statewide response to the needs of mentally ill offenders. This study included a review of research from 21 publications regarding relevant research that involved comparison groups and the examination of recidivism as an outcome variable. Each study is summarized in this report.