How Jail Diversion Programs Improves Data Collection?

What is jail diversion?

Jail diversion programs are community-based, collaborative response systems that strive to reduce or avoid jail time and link individuals to comprehensive and appropriate services. Jail diversion programs identify and redirect those with mental health or substance use disorders from the justice system to treatment-based alternatives.

The initiatives’ premise is that those suffering from these disorders would be more adequately served through community-based treatment services, reducing law enforcement contact and the likelihood of criminal recidivism. Redirection can also provide potential benefits to crowded jails and reduce burdens on the court system. Jail diversion is a positive tool that can help prevent the stigma associated with a criminal offence.

It is well-documented that people with behavioural health conditions such as mental illness and substance use disorders are three to six times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. In the United States today, the situation has reached crisis levels, with more people with mental health issues in jail than in psychiatric hospitals.

As a result, many find themselves constantly cycling through the criminal justice system and mental health system throughout their lives, unlikely to achieve recovery and become functioning members of society. Subsequently, strategies like jail diversion initiatives have emerged as a humane and viable alternative to the criminalization and detention of individuals with mental health and substance use conditions.

What do jail diversion programs look like?

Though various jail diversion models have been developed, the two most promising are pre-booking and post-booking.

Pre-Booking in Jail Diversion Programs

  1. Pre-booking
  • Diverting of individuals before being charged with criminal offense into mental health or substance abuse treatment
  • Police use discretion in determining the appropriateness of arrest or diversion and link person to applicable services

In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) completed a report on pre-booking diversion programs. The findings showed that successful programs included the following:

  • Mental health and substance use disorder training for law enforcement officers,
  • Collaboration between police, behavioral health providers, and other community providers such as housing and vocational service providers,
  • Team-based approaches, which included police and behavioral health co-response teams and multi-disciplinary behavioral health teams, including peer support


  1. Post-booking
  • Diversion after a person has been charged

Jail-based diversion

Court-based diversion

Mental health court

Even after a person in crisis has been booked into jail, there are opportunities for diversion through pretrial services, efforts of the jail, or the courts. All of these are considered post-booking diversions.

In jail-based post-booking programs, specialized jail personnel may identify, assess, and divert mentally ill detainees from custody to community treatment with the consent of the prosecutor, judge, and defence attorney. In court-based post-booking programs, mental health professionals work within the courthouse to conduct assessments and negotiate treatment plans with the prosecutor, judge, and defence lawyer to secure a bail release for the client.

Typically, these cases receive a brief continuance to ensure that the person is linked to the necessary treatment before charges are withdrawn. Or a person may receive probation with special conditions rather than a custodial sentence. This type of diversion occurs in multiple courts with multiple judges.

Mental health court diversion, alternatively, occurs in one specialized court. The prosecutor, judge, defense attorney, and other court staff may have specialized training in mental health issues and will work collaboratively to link the individual to treatment and community support. Treatment is generally mandated and monitored, and the avoidance of incarceration or promise of dismissed charges is used as an incentive for treatment.

Challenges with jail Diversion Programs

The greatest challenge in any mental health jail diversion program is accurate data collection and reporting, especially between the various agencies involved. In its report, HHS stated that both law enforcement and behavioural health staff had difficulty obtaining sufficient data to demonstrate the complete picture about a person.

During drop-off, initial information from police officers is often incomplete because officers need to return to street duties promptly. In addition, without access to all relevant

Having a data system that can provide secure collaboration between agencies in the helper community is crucial to a successful diversion program. Julota is the first and only platform built to do just that.

 The Julota software enables communities to better address mental health, substance abuse, and emergency interventions while expanding the impact of limited resources by connecting the right service, with the right resources, at the right time. In addition, Julota automates the needed collaboration between law enforcement, emergency responders, clinical practitioners, and caseworkers. The combined data from multiple sources allows partners to facilitate communication and cooperation and provide the best solution for everyone.

In most communities, the criminal justice system comprises corresponding parts consisting of different agencies. Though each of the agencies (i.e., law enforcement, courts, and jails) has opportunities to exercise diversion interventions, too often, they operate as stand-alone programs, particularly when it comes to computer systems.

As a result, individuals with behavioural health issues are too frequently processed directly through the justice system. With a proper data flow system between the various entities, people can be appropriately identified and diverted to community providers for needed treatment and support services.

Sharing operational data through Julota’s platform allows for more effective decision-making on a case-by-case basis. For instance, screenings conducted at the jail can be shared promptly with public defenders to identify potential candidates for mental health diversion. In addition, because it is cloud-based, information can be accessed seamlessly and quickly through a web browser on any mobile or desktop device.

Agencies within the justice system are not the only ones struggling with sharing data legally and effectively. For example, hospitals, emergency responders, and mental health providers cannot typically share information or collect data about police involvement in cases of mental health crises, including warm hand-offs to community-based services.

Concerns also exist regarding health privacy regulations related to information shared between entities. For example, an understanding of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) demonstrates that mental health providers may share client information with law enforcement if that information is necessary to “prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to health or safety.”

Mental health professionals acting as co-responders with law enforcement may share information with jails about medication that a detained person has been prescribed. Julota’s interoperability platform provides the perfect compliant solution for automated collaboration between law enforcement, emergency responders, mental health providers, and jails.

Data sharing in mental health jail diversion programs are also crucial in identifying trends and opportunities. Because jail is often the first place where data is collected relative to mental illness, early identification can provide information that will be useful in program analysis and future treatment needs. This type of analysis can prove helpful in answering questions such as:

  • What kinds of crimes are people with behavioral health needs being accused of?
  • How long are they being detained in jail?
  • Are they being connected to services upon release, and if so, what types of services?
  • Who is coming back, and what are they being accused of?

The following criteria can be applied as well to provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of a jail diversion program:

  • Number of identified individuals who were linked to treatment
  • Number of identified individuals who were linked to community-based services
  • Release outcomes (returned to the home, placed in a facility, etc.)
  • Identification of treatment gaps
  • Number of successful diversions per policy period

Does mental health jail diversion work?

Recent studies indicate that diversion of people with mental and substance use disorders accused of misdemeanour crimes into appropriate mental health treatment programs results in better long-term results for offenders. In addition, by targeting the underlying problems, these programs can improve long-term community safety and reduce recidivism (tendency to re-offend) much more effectively than simply warehousing someone in a jail cell and sending them back to the streets.

Benefits of an effective diversion program include reduced jail time, hospital stays, and criminal justice expenditures such as court time and overcrowding. In addition, when persons living with mental health and substance use conditions are integrated into competent community-based treatments and services, a better quality of life and successful recovery are evident.

It has also been noted that diverted individuals are more likely to participate in counselling and take prescribed medications.

A successful mental health jail diversion program is possible, and interagency collaboration is a critical factor in that success. The capability of organizations to share data across platforms while complying with security and privacy regulations is paramount and only available through Julota’s simple and accessible user interface.

Because Julota is a cloud computing solution, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and social workers can access sensitive information using smartphones, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. Connecting community services allows for efficient communication that is entirely customizable and cost-effective.