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Expanding Access to Programs Dismissing Charges

Reducing the reach of the criminal legal system on individuals means dismantling practices that keep individuals entangled and implementing solutions that quickly provide exit ramps from the system. Diversion programs connecting individuals to community programming in lieu of formal case processing is one clear solution.

JSP recognizes that the factors leading individuals to experience arrest are rooted in trauma, behavioral health challenges, and structural disadvantage. Specifically, this includes homelessness, substance use, mental health disorders, food insecurity, and generally navigating poverty. Connecting individuals to community-based services to address these challenges can have measurable impacts on future arrests. Therefore, diversion programs which connect individuals to these services in lieu of formal processing and conviction can both improve the wellbeing of individuals while removing the collateral consequences of conviction. JSP is at the forefront of promoting these community-based solutions, working in collaboration with jurisdictions that divert individuals away from traditional legal pathways and towards supportive interventions. However, diversion programs can be difficult to implement, and strict eligibility requirements prevent individuals from accessing diversion programs equitably.

JSP’s efforts, to this end, include providing technical assistance to local jurisdictions to identify types of offenses or specific groups of people who could benefit from diversion programs, working with local stakeholders to consider, through an equity lens, eligibility requirements, and helping local courts consider how best to measure the success of their programs. JSP also provides research support by evaluating the effectiveness of these programs. For example, JSP is working with Harris County, Texas to examine various aspects of the county’s prosecutorial-led mental health diversion programs. In several other jurisdictions, JSP is examining the potential for retail theft diversion programs. Across these projects, we analyze program data, determine costs and cost savings, draft criteria for contracting with community agencies, and develop trainings for staff on the improved use of diversion programs. As JSP’s initiatives unfold in these jurisdictions, our partnership serves as a model for jurisdictions across the nation, illustrating how thoughtful, community-driven efforts paired with research, evaluation, and technical assistance can safely and effectively get people out of the system quickly and reduce the impacts of arrest on individuals and communities.

Related Resources

Getting to the Root of Retail Theft

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