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NCSL Releases New Report on Front-End Justice: Deflection and Diversion

For Immediate Release 

August 23, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A significant number of those who cycle through jails are individuals with serious mental illness, according to a new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The report is part of “The Legislative Primer Series for Front-End Justice,” which explores policies that look at who is entering the “front door” of the criminal justice system. It examines statutory frameworks impacting deflection and diversion programs, designed to redirect individuals with mental health or substance-related needs away from the criminal justice system, while prioritizing public safety, accountability and greater access to mental health services and addiction treatment.

Some of the key takeaways from this report include:

  • A significant number of those who cycle through jails are individuals with serious mental illness, the vast majority of whom also have drug- or alcohol-related needs that can complicate treatment.
  • State efforts in the past decade have focused on strategies that protect public safety, promote accountability and create greater access to treatment and programs that can reduce recidivism and connect individuals to a support network.
  • Many states have recently amended their eligibility guidelines to increase pretrial diversion opportunities, thereby increasing treatment opportunities and alternatives to jail for defendants.

“NCSL is proud to publish our fifth report of the series, which will continue to provide legislatures with the tools they need to consider cost-effective policies that help accomplish the goals of improving public safety and reducing justice-system involvement,” says report author Amber Widgery, program principal in NCSL’s Civil and Criminal Justice Program.

This report was prepared with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge and Laurie R. Garduque, director of Criminal Justice in the Foundation.

To read the full report, click here.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.

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