Miami Cites Early Successes In Mental-Health Court Diversion


A diversion program for mentally-ill defendants, modeled on Miami-Dade’s lauded drug court, allows for felony charges to be dropped if defendants complete one year of aggressive treatment and monitoring and, in some cases, pay restitution, reports the Miami Herald. The effort stems from Judge Steve Leifman’s bid to overhaul the way mentally ill defendants are treated by the criminal justice system. It’s based on the belief that getting regimented treatment for offenders early on will make them less likely to break the law again.

There’s also the financial benefit of reduced jail time. Mental health coordinator Tim Coffey estimated that in the program’s first year, more than 100 participants might otherwise have spent an extra 2,180 days in jail, adding to county costs. A similar program for misdemeanor defendants has resulted in 80 percent of participants completing the year without getting rearrested. The program’s success ultimately will be judged by how many graduates stay out of jail. So far, just five of 100-plus participants have been rearrested, and only two have been booted from the program.

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