Critical Issues - Court Diversion Programs

Court Coordinated Resources Project (CCRP) (mental health court) and Jail Alternative Services Project (JAS)

Tandem demonstration projects in the Anchorage District Court

What are the CCRP (mental health court) and the JAS projects?

  • CCRP is a collaboration of designated corrections, judicial, prosecution and defense staff who quickly identify nonviolent, low risk mentally disabled misdemeanants for diversion from expensive jail beds and into community based behavioral health treatment on bail or as a probation condition. The court works in tandem with the JAS project.

  • JAS is a DOC pilot project, funded by the AMHTA, to quickly identify non-violent, low risk mentally disabled misdemeanants for diversion from expensive jail beds for diversion into community behavioral health treatment. JAS employs one case coordinator who links up to 40 voluntary participants with a behavioral health treatment plan. The plan is ordered as a condition of suspended jail time and as a preventive measure against future clinical and legal recidivism. The case coordinator then monitors the defendant's compliance with the plan.

  • After sentencing, defendants return for status hearings before the same specially assigned CCRP judge for review of the plan and reports from the case coordinator to ensure compliance with the court-ordered treatment plan.

  • CCRP requires coordination among judicial, corrections, and social service agencies.

  • Anchorage has the 3rd mental health court in the U.S; many more are now forming.

Why have these projects?

  • To address criminalization of mental illness: on a sample day in 1997, there were over 10 times as many mentally ill people in Alaska correctional facilities as in API; 37% of the state's incarcerated population on that sample day were Alaska Mental Health Trust Beneficiaries.

  • To relieve the enormous and inappropriate burden on the court, DOC, and the defendants.

  • To provide a 'best practice' accommodation for disabled persons who cannot participate meaningfully in traditional high volume, fast paced district court process designed to accommodate individuals with higher cognitive function.

  • To address the lack of supervised probation conditions for misdemeanants. This project provides assistance to locate and comply with treatment in lieu of incarceration to a population particularly vulnerable to inappropriate rearrest for probation violations/new charges because of their inability to follow through is due to a disability. Prompting and monitoring by a judge and case coordinator has demonstrated greater compliance and far fewer jail and hospital stays in project participants.

What are the benefits for defendants?

  • JAS results so far indicate a drastic decrease in clinical and legal recidivism in only one year of demonstration. Jail and psychiatric hospital stays, which are typically the result of acting-out behavior, decline when defendants participate in community-based treatment for their disabilities.

  • Defendants benefit from consistent, individualized treatment and interaction among a constant team of legal & judicial professionals in a project designed to approach a case more therapeutically than punitively.

  • Disabled defendants do not languish in venues which are entirely counter-productive to their condition (corrections, stressful high volume court hearings, unassisted and/or inappropriate probation settings.)

What are the benefits for the court?

  • Less recycling/revolving of these defendants through the court, DOC, API.

  • Coordination with agencies that can help prevent defendants from reoffending.

  • Efficient use of court time because of non-judicial supports to provide bail/sentencing information and designated staff familiarity with cases.

  • Pride in creating a model response to the community's call to halt inappropriate incarceration and needless trauma for mentally disabled misdemeanants (Anchorage is the 3rd recognized mental health court in the nation; we are often called upon by others now forming for consultation).

  • Minimal costs to the court through coordination with and use of other agencies' resources (for services, etc.).

  • Opportunity to work closely with the SAMSHA/API 2000 projects to fully eradicate the incidence of mentally disabled people being charged with crimes and processed through the court system (criminalized) solely to obtain 24 hour acute care.

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