Objectives: A major proposal for appropriately treating persons with mental illnesses who have been arrested is to divert them from jail to community-based mental health programs. However, there are few available definitions, guidelines, and principles for developing effective diversion programs. The goal of this research was to determine the number and kinds of jail diversion programs that exist, how they are set up, and which types of programs are effective.
Methods: On the basis of information gathered during a national mail survey (n = 1263) and follow-up telephone survey of 115 responding jails, 18 sites were selected for on-site interviews based on perceived effectiveness and presence of a formal diversion program.
Results: Data are presented from a national sample of jail diversion programs (n = 18). Key factors for developing diversion programs and descriptors of effective programs are presented.
Conclusions: It is clear that controlled, longitudinal studies of these programs' effectiveness, using client-based and organizational outcome measures, are badly needed.