Diversion Programs vs. Traditional Punishment

There are many advantages to utilizing diversion programs in our Court system. The cost to house an inmate in Texas ranges from approx. $42 per day to over $50 per day. The cost of probation is $2.92 per day on average and the offender pays $1.62 of that cost. Diversion programs divert the individual from the jail into a program that requires treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse along with supervision by a probation officer and additional supervision from the Court.

Diversion programs can address the issues of mental health and/or substance abuse by requiring the offender to get necessary treatment while on probation. These programs do not involve creating another Court and make use of the existing judicial system by allowing a Court to add a docket to hear those cases.

Houston was one of the first cities in Texas to adopt diversion programs and a recent study was done to determine if these programs have been successful. The study indicated that the crime rate decreased in Houston through the use of diversion programs and that there were 75% fewer re-convictions after individuals were placed into these programs. There was also a 50% increase in formal employment rates among the participants.

Studies conducted indicate that diversion programs are successful in reduction of docket pressure, maximizing resources in the prosecutor's office to address more serious offenses, reducing court and jail expense and reducing crime rates. There are clear rewards and sanctions in these programs and individuals are expected to meet certain requirements to stay in the program. These programs allow individuals to get the treatment they need while also saving the community money, reducing unemployment and reducing crime. The benefit for the community appears to be as great as the benefit for the individual.

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