Effectiveness of Diversion Programs

Writtne By: Calvin Pegus

Diversion programs can be implemented in various forms. The ultimate purpose of these programs is to assist individuals who were charged with a crime the ability to complete community-based substance abuse treatment programs instead of being incarcerated. Diversion programs are a useful tool that can target and solve the underlying issues that have led up to addiction, improve community collaborations, and reduce recidivism. The notion of “sticking” someone into a prison or jail cell and not dealing with the underlying problems, then turning them back onto the streets does not provide a sound solution that will change the individual’s behavior.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., there are three types of crimes related to drug use:

1. Use-Related crime: These are crimes that result from or involve individuals who ingest drugs, and who commit crimes as a result of the effect the drug has on their thought processes and behavior.
2. Economic-Related crime: These are crimes where an individual commits a crime to fund a drug habit. These include theft and prostitution.
3. System-Related crime: These are crimes that result from the structure of the drug system. They include production, manufacture, transportation, and sale of drugs, as well as violence related to the production or sale of drugs, such as a turf war.

Though drug addiction and criminality have a symbiotic relationship, it is essential that when you analyze the patterns of addiction, diversion programs can provide children and adults the ability to deal with substance abuse issues, and have the capacity to successfully learn lifelong coping skills rather than being immersed into the criminal justice system. Seeking help for addiction is only the start and recovery can be a problematic lifelong process in staying clean and sober which can be difficult if poverty and crime surround the individual’s environment. These programs can provide support that is critical to the success of the individual and the drug diversion program.

Incarceration based policies have been shown to drain public resources, place an added burden on communities who are affected, and never deal with the real issues at hand. Diversion programs provide the opportunity for behavioral change. Diversion programs typically address the substance abuse illness by giving a restorative framework. The most substantial diversion efforts are built on the concepts of underscoring Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) models which serve as a bridge between the person and the service delivery system. Under the TASC models, individuals are screened (for substance use disorders, mental health, etc.), assessed, and placed in appropriate programs and services.

It is important to remember that the purpose of diversion programs are not to take away the power of the judicial system, but to utilize the system to facilitate treatment options. The collaboration with community partnerships will provide a stronger treatment service, which can also provide services that target physical and mental health. These diversion programs should ensure that individuals as are receiving a continuum of services. It is imperative to build positive community values that reflect support for individuals that is a holistic, collaborative approach to bring together a coordinated plan for successful recovery.