Dallas’s DIVERT court (Dallas Initiative for Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment) tries to divert individuals with minor drug offenses away from prison, reports National Public Radio. Established 10 years ago, it’s one of about 80 so-called problem-solving courts across Texas. With the state’s yearly budget for corrections ready to surpass the $3 billion mark, DIVERT looks like an increasingly promising model to keep people out of prison and save tax dollars. Studies by Southern Methodist University show that DIVERT Court cuts the recidivism rate by 68 percent over the regular Texas criminal justice courts. For every dollar spent on the court, $9 are saved in future criminal justice costs.
Judge John Creuzot says the next step is to expand these courts to include perpetrators of property crimes and to raise the drug possession limits. He also would like to see DIVERT expanded beyond first-time offenders. Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the legislature’s corrections committee, says that instead of worrying about the expanding outflow from prison, he wants to choke off the inflow with DIVERT-type courts. “We have 157,000 people in the prisons of Texas – that’s a lot,” he says. Officials estimate that unless changes are made, Texas will need 17,000 more prison beds just four years from now.