What I Wish I Knew About Jail Diversion Programs a Year Ago

Data is a crucial component in determining the effectiveness of any community-based program, and jail diversion programs are no different. The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) outlines a concept known as Evidence-Based Practice. Evidence-based practices are implemented based on data that determine the likelihood of positive outcomes from community programs, such as a jail diversion program.

A critical factor in implementing evidence-based practices is the ability to track data. Data helps you determine various aspects of your jail diversion program to see how effective it is in reducing overall recidivism. When looking back, many individuals charged with the operation of jail diversion programs say that they wish they had taken more time to harness data. Especially right from the infancy of their program.

Important Data to Monitor

Many data points are available to monitor to measure your jail diversion program. A few stand out as the most critical, such as:

  • Jail saves
  • Diversions to mental health facilities
  • Diversions to substance abuse facilities
  • Mental health call reduction
  • Recidivism reduction
  • Cost reduction

Jail Saves and Diversions to Facilities

Jail saves is an all-encompassing term for any individual diverted to a location other than jail. For example, individuals experiencing a mental health crisis may be viewed as a danger to society or themselves. Unfortunately, these individuals end up in jail more often than in mental health facilities or hospitals.

People with severe mental illness (SMI) are three times more likely to be taken to jail than to a treatment facility. Additionally, about 40% of people with SMI’s have spent time in jail, prison, or community corrections (ex., Probation or Parole).

Sadly, there are many stories about individuals that required treatment but faced jail time in place of it because the system did not know how to handle them.

The same can be said for substance use disorders (SUDs). Unfortunately, substance abuse runs rampant in the criminal justice system. Rather than being given the opportunity to be taken to a treatment facility, many drug offenders are taken to jail.

Approximately 65% of the prison population in the United States meets the criteria for a SUD. In addition, they did not qualify for a diagnosis of SUD. About 20% of the prison population were under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the commission of their crime.

Knowing the number of times people enter treatment facilities rather than jail allows programs to increase jail saves yearly. Looking into more details about individual incidents is also an excellent way to understand the variety of resources available in particular communities.

Mental Health Call Reduction

Law enforcement officials are often involved in mental health or substance abuse crisis calls. It is estimated that at least 20% of calls for police service involved either mental health or substance abuse crisis. Understanding this data allows for better training of law enforcement professionals and implementation of official Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs).

CIT teams are essential in reducing recidivism. Some vital statistics to note about CIT’s include:

  • CIT teams reduce the number of rearrests by 58%.
  • CIT teams lessen the stigma of mental illness in the community.
  • CIT training increases the likelihood of an officer taking an individual to a treatment facility by 25%.
  • CIT training reduces the chance of injury to law enforcement officers.

Like jail saves, documenting information related to mental health calls can lead to numerous benefits, including a better understanding of the resources available in the community and a better understanding of community mental health needs in general.

Recidivism Reduction

The entire goal of the criminal justice system is to reduce recidivism. When someone commits a crime, we want to do everything to make sure it does not happen again. On that note, arguably, one of the most critical statistics in jail diversion programs is recidivism reduction.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains that jail diversion programs can reduce recidivism if done correctly.

These programs are often grant-funded, and grant funding is only given to programs that can prove their success. Therefore, to track the success rate of your jail diversion program, you must understand how well your program reduces recidivism.

Not only are recidivism reduction statistics critical in grant funding, but they also allow you to improve your program as the years go on. Evidence-based practices detail that best practices to change over time based on program performance.

Understanding recidivism reduction allows you to implement various features of jail diversion programs to determine which ones work and which ones do not in terms of how they increase or decrease recidivism among criminal offenders.

Cost Reduction

On a similar note, another fundamental statistic regarding program funding is cost reduction. It is hard to justify a community program if it does not reduce the cost to taxpayers living in that community. In most cases, jail diversion programs reduce the cost of criminal justice interventions to community members.

For example, one study found that jail diversion programs were associated with about $2,800 cost reduction for taxpayers per year per person in the jail diversion program after two years. In addition, it is cheaper for the community to engage individuals in jail diversion programs rather than incarceration and typical court proceedings.

Like the statistic of recidivism reduction, cost reduction statistics justify the implementation of jail diversion programs and allow organizers and operators to improve these programs over time. In addition, tracking cost reduction statistics lets you understand which program features help reduce costs and which features do not.

Benefits of Tracking Jail Diversion Program Data

We have already mentioned some of the benefits of tracking this data. However, a more detailed look is necessary to understand why it is essential. Benefits to jail diversion program data tracking include:

  • Law enforcement training
  • Increasing support for jail diversion programs
  • Improving jail diversion programs through evidence-based practices
  • Creating a safer, healthier community

Law Enforcement Training

It is no secret in the criminal justice system that many law enforcement officials are hesitant to change their ways if they have found a system that has worked for so long. Therefore, when introducing jail diversion programs to law enforcement agencies, it is critical to have data to back up the implementation of these programs.

Data about jail diversion programs have two key benefits:

  1. Selling the idea of the program to law enforcement agencies
  2. Giving individual officers a better understanding of what the program is all about.

Presenting data makes the officers more comfortable with the program’s concept and lets them understand the resources available to community members. As a result, training for these programs is more accepted and reduces resistance to change, which is often seen in the criminal justice system.

Support for Jail Diversion Programs

When we say support for jail diversion programs, we talk about financial and community support. But, having policing agencies on board and data to back up the effectiveness of your program also gets the community on your side.

Data leads to more funding and other types of support from the community. Victims are more likely to approve of offender participation in these programs. More treatment agencies will also come forward to engage with participants and provide needed services. This allows you to continuously grow and improve upon your jail diversion program year after year.

Improvement Through Evidence-Based Practices

Having data available significantly increases the likelihood of long-term success for this type of criminal justice program. Data are used to understand various aspects of the program and understand what works and was does not.

For example, if a jail diversion program introduces a specific initiative, a year’s worth of data can indicate whether or not that initiative was successful. Programs can then be expanded or stopped based on the results. Evidence-based practice; practices based on real-life occurrences prove outcomes.

Healthier and Safer Communities

When we say the word “community,” it is essential to remember that criminal offenders are a part of that community. Therefore, by providing them with needed services to improve their mental health or SUD, we are improving the community’s overall health. Recidivism reduction, then, increases safety for non-offending community members.

Through data tracking, jail diversion programs can get more services involved and implement better protocols to learn how to serve their community members best.

Software Solution for Data Tracking

Julota provides data tracking tools for jail diversion programs. Jail diversion software explains vital data points discussed earlier, such as jail saves and involvement with community treatment providers.

It ensures that you have a leading edge over other types of criminal justice programs, lending toward more successful outcomes and higher support from community members and funders. Data is also secure, meaning that the privacy of individuals in the criminal justice system is always protected.