A special, super-intensive program for minor criminal offenders with a history of mental illness is led by Dallas Judge Kristin Wade, reports the Dallas Morning News. “If they can stay out of the criminal justice system for a year or two, that’s a success,” said Wade. For some people, close supervision is much more effective than jail. Minor offenders with mental illness are often revolving-door inmates. They’re arrested, incarcerated and released, and they promptly return to their old habits.
The state-authorized “jail diversion” program offers them a chance to stay out of lockup and have the charges against them dismissed. In exchange, they must submit to a program of close supervision much more demanding than most probation programs. Case managers make sure they stay on their medications and off drugs and alcohol. They must attend counseling sessions, stay out of trouble, prove they’re keeping doctor appointments. They have to find housing and jobs – many are homeless when they start the program – and submit to drug testing. Jerome Benavidez who was a crack addict living under a bridge when he enrolled in the diversion program. “I got stable on my meds. That was the first thing,” said Benavidez, 36, whose bipolar disorder was gradually brought under control with monitored medication.