Jail and Drug Court Diversion Programs for Drug Addiction

Criminal behavior influenced by drug and alcohol addiction is getting a new review by the justice system in many parts of the country. Thanks to advocates of an alternative approach to incarceration, “jail diversion” is growing in popularity as a more effective means of responding to people with alcohol and substance abuse issues and often co-occurring mental health disorders who commit crimes. The mission of jail diversion is to provide an effective way to prepare these individuals for a return to society that addresses the very issues that led to illegal activities.

Jail diversion programs typically involve reduced or no jail time on current charges or violation of probation for an individual with previous charges. These programs may differ from one municipality to the next, and the access to and type of community-based treatment and support services may also differ. Not all programs share the same criteria either for defining who is considered a candidate for jail diversion. Individuals that may generate more interest from addiction specialists and mental health professionals in regards to jail diversion may be those who have experienced a chronic relapse,  those with existing-yet-undiagnosed mental health disorders, and comorbid persons who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

Creating and sustaining a jail diversion program at the local level involves several key steps. A target group for jail diversion must be clearly defined. Establishing the means to identify individuals within the target group as early as possible during the process of arrest, booking, bail procedures and arraignment is necessary. Members of the justice system in each locale using jail diversion would need to facilitate access to community-based treatment centers and health care systems, as well as implement policies and procedures necessary ensure a suitable level of criminal justice supervision during the process of treatment, if necessary.

Jail diversion may be offered at several points after arrest and booking: treatment as a condition of bail; deferred prosecution; deferred sentencing; and pleading guilty with treatment as a condition of probation. A person entering a jail diversion program, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, would avoid charges or sentencing during the period of treatment, and charges or sentencing could be dismissed upon the successful completion of the program. For prosecutors and courts, retaining the ability prosecute and ensuring that treatment is received are typically mandatory components of jail diversion.

In some cases, the goals of jail diversion treatment may be a comprehensive solution to an existing addiction or may be only meeting the requirements of jail diversion only. Once in treatment, individuals would receive individual or group counseling for an addiction, learn strategies for living alcohol or drug-free, and may establish a relapse prevention plan as part of a long-term approach to recovery. Depending on the chosen facility, and the nature of the substance abuse and/or mental illness, an individual may receive outpatient services or inpatient services at a residential facility.

Advocates of jail diversion programs may use the existing prison population as evidence of the increasing need for more effective alternatives to incarceration. According to national figures, the United States jails roughly 800,000 people with serious mental illnesses each year. 72 percent of them meet the criteria for a substance abuse problem, too, including addictions to cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. Those compelling figures illustrate a significant level of comorbidity among the nation’s incarcerated men and women.

Eligibility for the Drug Court Diversion Program

Eligibility for the Drug Court Diversion Program is based upon specific criminal charges and a known history of substance abuse.  Screening for enrollment eligibility is very competitive and individuals may be removed from the program at any time if necessary.  The goal of the program is to eliminate any chemical or alcohol dependency in the life of the defendant.  The Drug Court Diversion Program is normally scheduled to run a minimum of twelve weeks, with at least thirty hours of treatment.  Participation in the program includes private and group counseling, workshops concerning HIV infection (AIDS), drug abuse prevention, tuberculosis as related to inhaling toxic substances, and a proactive self-help program.

Drug Program Guidelines

The Drug Diversion Program is designed to inform all participants about the complex nature of drug and alcohol addiction, and how these dependencies go beyond the individual to impact the family and society as a whole.  Participation in the program encourages taking responsibility for one’s life and standing in a position of accountability for all decisions made with respect to using either drugs or alcohol.  By providing healthy role models and constructive feedback to juvenile offenders, many factors such as criminal activity and unsafe neighborhoods due to drugs are reduced.  Striving to provide resources and rewards for those that maintain positive conduct and accountability, offenders often go on to acquire life skills and job training that keeps them off the street and sober.  Recidivism of drug or alcohol related crimes after successfully completing the program is dramatically reduced in comparison with those individuals that do not participate in the program.

Long Term Rehab Can Break the Cycle of Drug Offense

With a unique structure that integrates holistic, therapeutic, and experiential approaches to healing, Burning Tree’s long-term treatment program is perfect for individuals with multiple offenses or DUI’s.  Burning Tree gives offenders the time they need to absorb and apply the new life skills they need to break the pattern of addiction once and for all.  Our private and group counseling helps people get in touch with their feelings so they can enter a process of change and renewal.  By learning skills that prevent drug-triggering situations and addressing the special needs of the family, we will do what it takes for as long as it takes to reset boundaries, develop safe-talk, and stop violence before it starts in the home.  Our commitment to you is relapse prevention.

As a facility that provides a dual diagnosis, treatment for co-occurring disorders and long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, Burning Tree can be an effective alternative to prison and jail sentences. The addiction specialists at Burning Tree have treated comorbid individuals from all 50 states, and can provide services as a condition of bail, deferred prosecution or deferred sentencing. Burning Tree operates long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation services at two locations in Texas, one outside of Dallas and another outside of Austin. A full list of services is available at www.burningtree.com. Inquiries by phone are also welcome at 866-287-2877.


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