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In your initial post, discuss why you think jail diversion programs are growing in popularity. Keeping this growth in mind, what would you include in these programs? Consider the two types of jail diversion programs (pre- and post- booking) and aftercare planning.
In your response posts to your peers, evaluate their recommendations. How could you continue their proposals and make them more effective?
A large population of those in the prison system may be suffering from a mental illness. A special report conducted in 2006 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that “705,600 mentally ill adults were incarcerated in state prisons, 78,800 in federal prisons and 479,900 in local jails” (National Institute of Corrections, n.d., para. 2). More recently, it was estimated that “as many as two million men and women with mental health problems are involved with our country’s community corrections, jail, and prison systems” (Thigpen, 2012, para. 1). In general, a larger proportion of inmates have mental health concerns than the average non-incarcerated population.
Individuals with mental illness have a greater rate of being arrested and with more serious charges and longer sentences than individuals who are not mentally ill. While in prison, the risk for inmates with mental illness is greater. They often have less ability to cope with incarceration. This may increase their stress and cause more difficulties for them, including the increased potential for altercations, fights, or sanctions for not following the rules. Individuals with mental illness are also a population that is more at risk of being manipulated by other inmates and more likely to become victims than inmates without mental illness. Jail diversion programs are utilized to keep individuals who have committed crimes from entering or re-entering the criminal justice system and are focused on getting those individuals help for their mental health needs. This is done either pre- or post-booking.
Pre-booking programs are utilized before an individual has charges and divert the individual from entering the criminal justice system. Programs of this type vary depending on the area. However, they generally have the following:
- A crisis center that will triage a crisis or be there if an individual needs to come in for help or assistance
- Local law enforcement that have additional training in the area of mental health to better understand and assist the clients they encounter with mental health issues
- A clinician or psychologist who will work with law enforcement agencies and assist with the psychological elements when a client comes in with mental health needs
Post-booking programs will work with the individuals after they are incarcerated in order to keep them from recidivating. These programs also may vary by area, but they generally include the following:
- Courts with a focus on mental health. These courts utilize mental health assessments to divert offenders into programming in the community.
- Case management services for the individuals participating in the program. These services may be involved as needed, depending on the needs of the client.
Jail diversion programs will differ depending on the area, the needs of that area, and the services that the area can provide. At both the pre- and post-booking level, the people working with the client will get him or her involved with a variety of services. These include, but are not limited to, mental health services, employment services, and various support services to prevent the client from entering or re-entering the prison system. They will ensure that the client stays on his or her medications and has current evaluations with accurate and appropriate diagnoses. Individuals working with these clients can advocate for their client to avoid jail time, to have shortened jail time, or to obtain necessary and appropriate support services.
Jail diversion programs are growing in popularity as our prison system continues to be strained by individuals with mental illness. It is critical that these programs are put into place to get individuals with a mental illness the help they need while keeping them from making the same mistake twice.
In Module Ten, students will reflect on the entire course and relate what they have learned to Supreme Court cases and federal laws. How have cases or laws positively or negatively impacted topics in this class?
National Institute of Corrections. (n.d.). Mentally ill persons in corrections. Retrieved from http://nicic.gov/mentalillness
Thigpen, M. L. (2012). About corrections & mental health update [Web log]. Retrieved from http://community.nicic.gov/blogs/mentalhealth/abou…
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