Some Prince William County services are helping those in the criminal justice system.
The Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) offers programs for individuals awaiting trial and inmates who are preparing for life after jail.
Diversion Intercepts for Varied Emergency Responses and Treatment (DIVERT) is one of the services available, according to a release from the county.
Through DIVERT, a team of professionals help keep individuals with serious mental illness out of jail until a trial takes place.
“We get them assessed by a mental health professional through Community Services. If they are eligible, they are then diverted from the jail after their arrest and they get treatment pending trial,” OCJS Director Steve Austin said in a release. “We like to divert them as soon as possible. It’s a rapid process that assesses people quickly and gets them diverted from the jail as quickly as possible. It’s not good for people with mental illness to be in jail for a long period of time if they don’t have to be.”
DIVERT gives those with mental illness an opportunity to stay with their support system.
“It helps keep people in the community where they can contribute,” Austin said. “They can keep their jobs, support their families, and the community is not responsible for paying for their medical care at the jail. When they’re in jail, the burden for mental health care is on the state and the local taxpayers because that’s how that gets funded.”
However, it doesn’t allow program participants to get away with any crimes they have committed.
“They still have to deal with their pending charges. DIVERT doesn’t make that go away,” Austin said. “There’s still accountability for their criminal actions, but it’s dealt with through the lens that they have a mental illness.”
OCJS provides services for inmates who will eventually be released from jail, as well.
The DORM program teaches various life skills to individuals who are expected to be released within six months.
Inmates have a chance to address any obstacles at reentry fairs that are held at the Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center.
During the fairs, they can meet with employers and representatives of various organizations.
Inmates can also work with representatives from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to receive identification.
The programs, according to Austin, have proved successful.
Compliance rates have risen from 84 percent in 2015 to 89 percent in 2017, according to the OCJS 2017 Annual Report.
The average daily caseload for pretrials has increased from 352 to 507 in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
According to Austin, the programs the OCJS offers are sensible.
“Most believe that people deserve a second chance, but even if you don’t believe that, the fiscal side of it is that is that it makes good sense to do everything you can to help people be successful,” Austin said.
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