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Pretrial - Front-End Intervention (Diversion)

This document highlights the commitment of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to define and support evidence-based practices that improve decision-making at the pretrial stage of our criminal justice system, enhancing the safety of America’s communities and fostering the fair administration of pretrial release and detention. With the release of A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency, NIC and its Pretrial Executive Network helps inform the discussion on bail reform and pretrial justice by presenting and defining the fundamentals of an effective pretrial system and the essential elements of a high functioning pretrial services agency. This publication presents and describes these essential elements—as well as the components of an evidence-based framework for improving pretrial outcomes nationwide. 

Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in criminal justice. Courts that make evidence-based decisions set the following as goals: (1) Protecting community safety; (2) Ensuring a defendant’s return to court; (3) Basing release and detention decisions on an individual defendant’s risk and the community’s norms for liberty; [and] (4) Providing judicial officers with clear, legal options for appropriate pretrial release and detention decisions.

A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency should serve as a guide for jurisdictions interested in improving their current pretrial systems. By presenting a framework of evidence-based and best practices, NIC supports the equally important concepts of pretrial justice and enhanced public safety in all of America’s courts. 

A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial System and Agency cover

"The evolution of justice policy in the United States has been far from linear. The last several decades have seen dramatic shifts in the management of criminal justice populations across the country, especially with regard to drug policy. Through the early years of the “War on Drugs,” declared in the early 1970s by President Nixon, the fortification of laws and sanctions against the use of illegal drugs, combined with the criminal behavior that sometimes results from the drug-seeking component of addiction, and a host of other economic and social conditions, helped hold the roots of such criminality firmly within a moral and social realm in the minds of both policymakers and the public. Illicit drug use often has been perceived as a moral failing, punishable by incarceration. While this perception remains widespread in some areas and systems, significant advances in the science of treating underlying substance use disorders and mental illness has led to a burgeoning acceptance that addiction and mental illness are clinical issues with clinical solutions."

"As a first-time offender, Ms. Willis, 52, qualified for a big break: a program called pretrial intervention, also known as diversion. If she took 12 weeks of classes, performed 24 hours of community service and stayed out of trouble, her case would be dismissed and her arrest could be expunged, leaving her record clean."

Developed with funding support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, this policy brief describes key components to developing a systems-wide diversion strategy and focuses on the fundamental agencies within the criminal justice system that can lead the implementation of diversion interventions, with the goal of diverting people with mental illness from the justice system and into community-based treatment and support services. The brief was also prompted, and guided, through work with Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grantees.

"McLennan County leaders are creating a new position aimed at getting individuals with mental health issues the help they need and reducing costs associated with processing them through the judicial system. After the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1, county commissioners will vote to move $50,000 into a fund for a coordinator position that would expand District Attorney Abel Reyna’s pretrial diversion program. Anticipating the potential expansion, commissioners included a $1 placeholder in the fiscal year 2017 budget to allow for the transfer if the right pieces fell into place."

"What is the best way to correct the behavior of lawbreakers, ensuring that they do not reoffend? For nonviolent and low-risk criminals, jail diversion programs and other forms of alternative sentencing could be a worthy solution."

"Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska confirmed 32-year-old Jared Michael Manuel was accepted into the pretrial diversion program. Houston County Sheriff’s investigators arrested Manuel on April 4, 2014, and charged him with six felony counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and felony obtain a controlled substance by fraud. “He made what’s called a conditional guilty plea,” Valeska said. “A conditional guilty plea means when you do everything the cases are dismissed. There are conditions you have to meet, like drug testing and going to a court referral officer.”"

"This report, modeled on promising approaches in the mental health field to people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, outlines a new integrated framework that encourages the mental health and criminal justice fields to collaborate on developing programs based on early intervention, an understanding of the social determinants that underlie ill health and criminal justice involvement, and recovery-oriented treatment."

First-Episode Incarceration Cover

"This report introduces essential elements for responding to people with mental illnesses at the pretrial stage, including decisions about pretrial release and diversion. These elements encourage data collection not only to help individual communities, but also for future researchers who are dedicated to these important questions."

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses at the Pretrial Stage Cover

"For low-level juvenile offenders, advocates and analysts say evening reporting centers could be excellent alternatives to detention."

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