A program in Los Angeles designed to keep homeless adults, addicts, and the mentally ill out of jail is seeing little to no success, according to statistics provided by police.
The problem – is little to no interest in the program. Out of 283 people deemed eligible for the Alternatives to Incarceration Diversion Program (AIDP), only 17 people have completed the program. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of the 283 declined to participate in AIDP at all.
The program works because people arrested for misdemeanor offenses – such as simple drug possession, prostitution, or petty theft – are given the option to enter into the program. They are paired with one of the multiple community organizations for various services, including treatment and housing. Misdemeanors require the person to remain in the program for 90 days, while felony charges require 180 days. Those in the program are monitored by police and the prosecutor’s office with the option to file charges should the person fail to adhere to the program.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who oversees AIDP for the department, told the Los Angeles Times efforts to help people with the program have been hampered mainly by policies put in place by court officials and the district attorney’s office. “For many people eligible for diversion, a quick release is more attractive than entering a month-long treatment program, even if it leaves criminal charges hanging over their heads. The arrested and brought-in individuals believe they will be released very quickly.” And they most certainly are due to the court’s pandemic-related decision, which did away with cash bail for people charged with minor offenses, like the ones in AIDP.
Deputy Chief Pitcher stated people who have turned down AIDP had expressed doubt that the prosecutor’s office would even file charges against them on the minor offense. They won’t seek bail following the office’s more lenient policies under District Attorney Gascon if they do file.
The struggle to help people suffering from mental health issues is not only being discussed regarding AIDP. California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a controversial plan which would allow judges to compel people with serious mental illnesses and addictions to receive treatment. Families of people who have a mental illness and policy makers agree that something needs to be done with the families calling for a more proactive effort from the state instead of just waiting for the people who need help the most to commit a crime and get arrested.
What do you think? Do you believe AIDP is a good idea? Do you have any other solutions which might benefit those suffering from mental illness and addiction?