jail diversion; equity; minority; economic costs; prisons; correctional facilities; mental health; criminal law/statistics & numerical data; mental disorders/epidemiology; prisoners /statistics & numerical data; prisoners/psychology, prevalence


Other Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry



Mass incarceration, particularly of the mentally ill, continues to pervade our criminal justice system. Jails in many areas have become the largest mental health facilities, especially in large urban communities, despite increasing societal recognition that those with mental illness are not best served behind bars. Misdemeanors are an often-overlooked contributor to mass incarceration, and may be preventable for those with chronic severe mental illness.


This Northeast Florida pilot program, the Mental Health Offenders Program (MHOP), is based on the successful Miami Eleventh Circuit Court Criminal Mental Health Project. MHOP provided pretrial release from custody, through diversion with a customized plan of care to stabilize defendants, using court supervision to ensure compliance.


With community partners, the MHOP pilot enrolled 20 individuals with chronic severe mental illness and recurrent misdemeanor charges; 15 were able to continue in the program with stabilization of their mental health and reduction of county costs both documented.


The MHOP pilot demonstrates that community resources can be successfully shifted to benefit mentally ill, non-violent offenders and the larger community by helping severely mentally ill clients achieve stability by providing healthcare, housing, and income, while decreasing costs for the community in a humane way.