Diversion Programs Can Help to Lower Arrests and Police Encounters
Many experts – as well as the public at large – have hailed diversion programs as strategic, long-lasting, and highly effective means of bringing down crime and investing in the safety of the public. Community Assistance and Life Liaison in Florida was there to handle 4,300 calls that would have ended by bringing in the police had the workers in the program not been there to intervene.
What Is Diversion?
Diversion refers to strategies that are commonly called “exit ramps,” referring to the way that they give people a way out of the vicious cycles of police encounters, imprisonment, and prosecution. It’s a term that encompasses a wide variety of these exit ramps strategies, serving as a way of getting people out of the criminal legal system.
This is achieved through alternate intervention options that don’t necessitate arrests, prosecution, or incarceration. At the heart of these programs is the acknowledgment of the negative impacts that imprisonment and the criminal legal system have. They each have unique ways of damaging those who get caught up in them.
Those who staff these programs help to reframe the public’s perspective to see those who have been accused of committing a crime as real people dealing with everyday problems. They know that in many cases people who commit crimes don’t see any other way forward. These alternatives to jail time, prison sentences, and legal action are there to show everyone that there is always another option that doesn’t involve resorting to a life of crime.
Diversion programs provide a different way of dealing with these behaviors to bring down crime and create a safer public. But for diversion programs to work without involving a call to the police or a person being locked up in jail, they have to get to the bottom of what leads to criminal activities.
Learning What Causes Crime
Those who participate in diversion programs have the daunting challenge of getting to the root of the issues that leads to illegal activity. Studies show that the most common causes of criminalized behavior are:
- Food insecurity
- Housing insecurity
- Lack of employment
- Lack of resources for education
- Mental health needs going unmet
Rather than leaving these vulnerable populations to live in precarious situations like food insecurity, which lends itself to criminal behavior, these programs are there to provide assistance to struggling families and individuals before it comes to that.
It is extremely discouraging when you are unable to work, especially for those who are motivated to find a legitimate profession but none seem to be available. For those who are living in communities that seem to be operating against them, it may seem like there are few options. With an effective diversion program, work programs help these struggling individuals get in touch with employment opportunities that work for the individual.
Falling into criminal activities has been shown to often be the result of a community that lacks educational resources. Diversion programs help by providing those resources in a way that is accessible and approachable to the most vulnerable populations, giving them the informational tools necessary to forge new paths in life.
Mental health is still often a subject that isn’t addressed as much as it should be, but these diversion programs take a particular focus on it. A good diversion program provides those who need mental health assistance with counselors and other mental health resources.
Getting the Community Involved
When more members of the community are involved in these projects, they tend to be more informed and in touch with the struggles that local populations are facing. Through diversion programs, people of all kinds have the opportunity to help by providing food and essential services to people in need as well as offering new suggestions as to how the programs can be run.
Diversion programs come in all shapes and sizes, and the best fit for a given community all depends on the population being targeted, who is eligible, and what is hoped to be accomplished through this program. The two main types are pre-arrest and pre-charge diversion programs. But no matter what method is used to get there, the end game is always a matter of keeping more people out of the criminal legal system.
Stopping the Police Encounter Before It Happens
Many diversion programs are focused on intervention prior to the police encounter. For most minor disturbances, it’s not necessary for law enforcement or a Morristown criminal defense lawyer to be involved in the first place. These types of programs are an attempt to nip the issue in the bud by providing alternatives to prevent police from becoming needlessly involved and potentially exacerbating the situation.
When the Police Aren’t the Best Option
There are some programs that take care of conflicts in communities through the help of civilian responders. The best use of a civilian responder is for dealing with conflicts that aren’t so serious that they require police intervention – and in which the police might not be the best at dealing with it anyway.
This includes problems like neighbors getting into an argument that begins to rise beyond the level of what’s publicly acceptable. Calling in the police might actually only make things worse. But when an average person can come in and talk to everybody like they are human beings, things have a greater potential to take on a more peaceable turn in the end.
When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it might be unclear to a police officer whether the individual is a threat. Someone who is more acquainted with these issues might be better suited to deal with them, being able to recognize when someone needs to be talked down rather than escalating their distress through shouted orders and threats with firearms.
Other times, a civilian responder is helping to resolve conflicts with those who are dealing with homelessness. Oftentimes, when approached by a regular civilian rather than a uniformed police officer, the exchange can take on a much less adversarial tone and be resolved more easily. The same is often the case with those who are using illegal substances.
Saving the Public Money
There are also indications that using a diversion program instead of prison terms could save the public billions of dollars. That’s what one study found, conducted by Temple University and RTI International.
Almost half of the people in state prison either abuse or are dependent on drugs. However, only a fraction of that population receives treatment for their drug use, which makes them much more likely to continue the illegal behavior after being released. This study posited that relocating people who abuse substances to treatment programs in a community setting rather than state prison would not only bring down crime but also lead to massive savings in the criminal justice system.
Contact Gregg A. Wisotsky today at 937-898-0161 for a Morristown criminal defense lawyer that you can trust. Find out what his robust experience level can do to protect you in court.