Strategies for Effective Data Tracking in Jail Diversion Programs

4 Metrics to Measure Jail Diversion Programs:

  1. Number of individuals being diverted
  2. Type of result offered to participants of diversion programs or incentives upon completion
  3. Recidivism (the tendency of those diverted to reoffend)
  4. Cost-effectiveness

What is a Diversion Program?

Diversion is a criminal justice mechanism for reducing jail and prison populations by creating opportunities for individuals with mental health or substance use disorders to participate in non-incarceration-based programs.  Diversion programs from jails and emergency rooms have exploded in popularity in recent years, expanding to communities nationwide. These programs aim to increase public safety by averting incarceration and its negative consequences for appropriate persons and offenses in favor of options that present no increased risk to public safety and a greater opportunity for rehabilitation. This article focuses on effective data tracking for jail diversion programs.

Jail diversion services consist of two broad interlocking mechanisms of intervention. First is the diversion program, or the means by which an individual is identified during the arrest process and diverted into mental health and/or behavioral health services. Second, is the system of integrated mental health and substance abuse services to which the client is diverted.

Even though data consistently shows that diversion programs are significantly less expensive for communities than incarceration, these programs often require significant initial investments from communities. The structure of these programs also necessitates the participation of various stakeholders. These factors make tracking data for jail diversion programs that much more vital.

How Julota can be used for Effective Data Tracking

If your community has a LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program or another type of diversion program or is interested in setting one up, having a method to track the success of diversion programs is essential.

Diversion is a matrix of many contributing factors. Individuals participating in diversion programs likely have widely different criminal histories. Diversion programs vary widely in length based on the severity of charges and individual criminal history. With a comprehensive data-tracking software system, it can be easier for communities to understand the effectiveness of these options for different populations.

When considering data tracking tools, communities must be careful to safeguard confidential data from the public. Confidential data related to diversion programs may include behavioral health information, including substance use and treatment. That is why it is essential to use software, such as Julota’s Lead Diversion Platform, which is compliant with all data privacy and security regulations governing law enforcement and behavioral health information systems.

Methods of Tracking Incidents of Diversion

Determining the success of a diversion program through data tracking is three-fold. First, the software must identify the number of individuals being diverted. This data may include and delineate between individuals being diverted at many different stages of the criminal process, including:

  • Pre-booking or Pre-Arrest diversion
  • Post-booking diversion
  • Pre-trial diversion, and
  • Pre-sentencing diversion, and/or
  • Coterminous diversion (individual is taken into custody and delivered directly to psychiatric treatment while charges are pending)

Secondly, communities will benefit from collecting information about the type of result offered to participants of diversion programs or incentives upon completion. These results or consequences vary widely in the cost associated with the community providing such.

These results can include:

  • Charges not being filed
  • Charges being dismissed
  • Charges being reduced
  • Sentencing being reduced, and
  • Alternative sentencing being imposed

The final area in which it is most beneficial for communities to collect data is the success of these programs. Two major categories of diversion programs’ success are recidivism and cost-effectiveness.

Data tracking tools allow communities to measure the success of these programs through a number of factors, including:

  • Individual’s length of stay in the program
  • Percentage of individuals who completed the diversion program
  • Percentage of individuals who did not re-offend in the following 12, 24, or 36 months
  • Changes in the global level of functioning for program participants
  • Difference in arrests for individuals in the year prior to diversion compared to the year of diversion
  • Amount of $ spent on individual involvement in a diversion program as compared to the typical length of jail stay for that offense

How Data-Tracking from Jail Diversion Programs are Being Used in Communities

Data tracking tools were born from the concept of evidence-based practices (EBP). EBP utilizes research methods to determine the effectiveness of a program based on various outcomes. EBP supports using objective data to minimize conscious and unconscious bias in the criminal justice system.

Data tracking tools are a heavily used method in implementing EBP because of the objectivity and reliability they provide communities. Bias is rampant in all aspects of the criminal justice system, so objective measures such as data tracking tools can allow communities to ensure they are minimizing disparities in arrest and conviction rates for specific populations.

Diversion programs typically involve a wide variety of stakeholders, including, but not limited to, law enforcement, medical professionals, substance abuse counselors, housing support staff, therapists, school psychologists, and career center employees. Without an effective data-tracking system, it is nearly impossible to enable all of these different stakeholders to access the same information.

The full integration of Julota’s platform allows all stakeholders to have just-in-time access to all shared data. This access to shared data is essential for diversion participants to receive the most holistic treatment.

Actionable Benefits of Using Data Tracking to Monitor Diversion Programs

A robust data tracking program to collect information about your community’s diversion program will offer many tangible benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  1. More Competitive Grant Applications

Communities are typically limited in the amount of diversion program participants they can take on by the number of available support resources in the community. These resources can include community health centers, crisis centers, behavioral health centers, housing support agencies, and career support centers. Grant funding is often the most available source of funding to increase the number of available spots in these programs in your community or increase the existing number of these programs.

Most state and federal grants require agencies to provide program data to secure funding. Creating a solid data repository in your community can enable you to access more available state and federal monies through grants.

The more detailed and reliable data you can provide, the more competitive you will be as an applicant in these grant pools. With the current availability of data tracking, you will ensure your community’s position as a top candidate with solid data about the effectiveness and/or need for your current diversion programs.

  1. Showing Progress to Funders

As a community member you may know that your diversion program is doing real good for its participants, but it is often hard to find tangible results to show funders and investors who are looking for more determinative data. With a data-tracking tool in your community, you will have the hard data to show funders to gain additional resources for your community.

In this way, data-tracking tools, such as Julota, allow community members to take advantage of technology, including a cloud-based software system, to be the most effective advocates for their community.

  1. Allowing for an Improved Decision-Making Process Among Stakeholders

Because of the nature of diversion programs, many stakeholders are typically involved. These stakeholders will often come from different personal, professional, and educational backgrounds and bring equally widely different opinions about diversion programs.

Stakeholders may vary in their views on what types of individuals are good candidates for diversion programs, what types of therapeutic resources should be available to participants, and what types of criminal consequences follow the completion of the program.

Offering objective, clear data on these programs’ details, successes, and failures can allow stakeholders to have improved conversations about decision-making related to funding these programs. Having a tool such as Julota, which allows stakeholders just-in-time access to this data, may also support coordination and improved communication among stakeholders.

  1. Determining Which Types of Diversion Programs Are Most Successful

Determining “success” regarding participation in diversion programs offers a wide range of possibilities. This is another reason data tracking tools provide a more comprehensive solution than other methods. Success may be defined as program completion, reduced yearly arrest rate, or reduced lifetime recidivism.

Identifying different measures of success may be advantageous in allowing your community to offer such information to other types of stakeholders. Collecting different measures of success can also ensure that you can seek the widest array of various types of funding.

Diversion programs often require large upfront investments by communities and/or outside funders. It is important to determine whether these investments are worthwhile, and data-tracking is the easiest way to do so. Data tracking for jail diversion programs will allow your community to determine which programs are the most effective at keeping eligible individuals out of jails and prisons.