February 10, 2010

Keeping People Out of Jail Works

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:38 pm by Editorial Team

At the agency I work at, we run a grant with for Jail Diversion.  The idea is that people with mental illness and substance abuse commit crimes that they would likely not commit if they were receiving the appropriate clinical services.  So we work with local court systems to identify people who would be better served through services rather than jail time.

We recently collected data that proves this program works, and is in line with other national data.  About 150 clients are enrolled in the program, and 50 have been in it for 12 months.

  • Clients spent an average of 6.4 days in jail the year before they entered.  In the year after, they entered, they only spent 1.5 days in jail.
  • 44% were using illegal drugs at intake, after one year, only 13% were using.  56% were using alcohol, after one year only 29% were.
  • 19% were employed at intake, 42% were employed after 1 year.
  • 63% had stable housing at intake, and 85% had stable housing after one year.
  • 89% had an arrest in the previous 30 days. That number dropped to 3% after one year.

Keeping people with mental health/substance abuse problems out of jail WORKS.  If receiving the right services, they will reduce their recidivism, be more likely to abstain from drug/alcohol abuse, have increased employment, and housing stability.

Jail is a very costly expense to government.  A state spends anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 a year to keep an inmate housed.  Keeping people out of prison, helping them address the factors that led them to cause the crime, and helping them continue to be independent/self-sufficient is a lot cheaper than locking them up and throwing away the key.

Unfortunately, it’s politically expedient to throw “bad people” in jail.

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