Frequently Asked Questions

Below you'll find answers to the questions we get asked the most about pre-arrest diversion.

Perhaps a better question would be why not implement a pre-arrest diversion program? In a pre-arrest program, the individual committing a minor offense is held accountable for their behavior. There are structured consequences, a linkage to needed services is created, and public safety concerns are addressed. The result is an effective intervention without a formal arrest. Implementing this community designed and driven approach has shown positive results and benefits to public safety, all segments of the community, and the individual who committed the minor offense.

The benefits of a pre-arrest diversion program include:

· The offender is held accountable for their behavior

· The individual is required to engage through educational sessions, counseling, and/or community service as appropriate

· A needs assessment is conducted and the individual is linked with critical services, including mental health and substance use disorders

· Community policing is enhanced as this alternative to arrest is implemented

· No record of arrest assures continued opportunities for employment, school, and the military

· Public safety is maintained

· Recidivism is reduced.i 

i. Frost, G. (2016, June 17). Pre-arrest diversion-an effective model ready for widespread adoption. International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The essential difference between these two approaches is the arrest. In a pre-arrest diversion program, an arrest does not take place. While each community has program variants, oftentimes in place of an arrest, the offender is handed a civil citation with the requirement to show up for an evaluation, or minimally, follow up. At the follow up meeting and/or evaluation, the individual typically has to admit to the offense and commit to participate in the program. It is clear at that point that successful program completion will result in no arrest record; non-successful completion will result in a referral back to the state attorney for disposition.

Pre-arrest diversion is an effective tool that enhances the community’s approach to public safety, provides offender accountability, and equality of justice. In a pre-arrest diversion program, successful completion assures no arrest record. Most often in post-arrest diversion, the record of the arrest is maintained. To remove the arrest record after successful completion of post-arrest diversion programs, the individual has to request expungement. This process is often expensive and unattainable for many.

It is estimated that the traditional cost of processing an arrest is $2,711ii, and if incarcerated, this cost can be as much as $13,607.iii This includes law enforcement’s time, transport to booking which may entail booking fees and costly jail time, and traditional justice processing of the individual which includes various financial obligations to the courts and court officers. For example, while it varies in different jurisdictions, in Leon County, Florida, the paperwork, assessments and vast array of services for a pre-arrest diversion program over approximately 3-6 months, is estimated to be $350 and is run by a comprehensive behavioral health organization. Post arrest diversion programs begin at $300 and run up to $1750.iv

ii Olson, D.E., Stout., L.S. (1991). Cost of Processing a Drug Offender Through the Criminal Justice System. US Office of Justice Programs. iii (2015, Sept). Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on families: A National Community-Driven Report led by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together and Research Action Design.

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