Issues: Jail Diversion Analysis

Access the analysis by clicking the above link, and when you get there, click on the "Reports" tab on the left and then scroll down to the Framingham Jail Diversion Report under "Other Reports".

Jail Diversion Programs: An Introduction

By Patrice Brymner

The benefits and cost-effectiveness of jail and arrest diversion in Massachusetts are becoming clearer. In a recent report, the police/clinician partnership model used by the Framingham Jail Diversion Program (JDP) was shown to be successful in preventing unnecessary arrests and alleviating pressure on police in incidents involving mental illness and/or substance abuse.

The JDP, a privately funded partnership between the Framingham Police Department and Advocates Psychiatric Emergency Services, has been in operation since April 2003. According to the program’s website, “police and crisis workers cross-train one another, then literally ride together, to ensure that people with mental illness who are touched by the criminal justice system are directed to needed services – not to pointless and expensive utilization of police and Court resources.” The program does this by placing fully-trained crisis clinicians inside the police station 40 hours a week. Additionally, police dispatchers and supervisors are linked to clinicians 24 hours a day. According to the report, during the program’s first full year of operation, 469 interventions occurred, and 80 arrests were diverted. The report, published by Dougherty Management Associates, Inc. (December 2004) is available on line; use the link and instructions above this article.

Sarah Abbott-Carr, the program’s director, said the report “underscores the importance, value and effectiveness of having clinicians located at the Framingham Police Department and readily available to the officers on the street.” She also said that, “members of the JDP team have felt on a daily basis the value and significance of this mental health/police partnership and are pleased to have an independent account which so closely mirrors what we know to be true.”

Abbott-Carr noted that, “While Advocates recognizes that ‘one size’ does not fit all in jail diversion, this report provides clarification of the characteristics of communities similar to Framingham who should consider this mental health/police department partnership model.” She and the Advocates also endorse the report’s recommendation of a regional model based on the JDP model. The Advocates, she explained, hope their template can be replicated in other communities so that this “remarkable and effective idea” can stay “alive for a long time to come.”

Sarah Abbott-Carr and Brian Simoneau, assistant to the Framingham Chief of Police, were presenters at CJPC’s fall conference Harm or Help? Responding to the Criminalization of Mental Illness and Addiction.