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New York uses diversion program addresses mental illnesses

When New York residents enter the criminal justice system, it is often the case that individuals seek to avoid facing criminal charges and penalties such as imprisonment. While making a strong criminal defense is an important step for defendants to take, there are other options to consider during the criminal defense process. For some, diversion programs might be a suitable option.

Data regarding the New York jail population revealed that nearly 40 percent of inmates are mentally ill. This is an increase over the past years, even though the overall population of incarcerated people in New York has decreased over the recent years. In response to the growing number of inmates with mental health and substance abuse problems, a diversion program has been planned.

The plan is to help troubled individuals who have been trapped in the system for relatively minor offenses seek mental health treatment and increase their quality of life. Moreover, the plan is to shift the emphasis from punishment for minor crimes to treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse.

In order to address this issue and put the plan into action, the pretrial diversion program and resources devoted to easing the transition from incarceration back into society will be tripled in size. This New York diversion program will represent a significantly different approach for defendants in the criminal justice system to take and could help those accused of minor crimes in his or her criminal defense.

Defendants suffering from a mental illness or dealing with a substance abuse issue should understand their criminal defense options. To learn more about the defense options available and whether a diversion program is an option, defendants should become knowledgeable about the defense methods available to him or her.

Source: The New York Times, "New York City Plans Focus on Mental Health in Justice System," Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz, Dec. 1, 2014

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