Rapid Referral is a program designed to identify individuals who may need mental health assistance soon after they have been arrested, so that they can be transferred to community care facilities without spending too much time in jail. This is done in order to prevent further mental decline. Diversion programs are based on the belief that the offender's behavior can be corrected by less severe means than imprisonment. These programs provide the offender with an opportunity to address the issues that led to criminal activity, such as drug abuse, while still remaining in the community and being able to find employment.
The post-conviction military diversion program lasts for a period of time that does not exceed what the defendant would have spent in custody. This program was so successful in its initial pilot phase that it has since been expanded, allowing people from more areas of Los Angeles County to access essential resources and support. The military diversion program is a pre-trial diversion program specifically designed for active members of the U. S. military and veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse, or mental health problems.
In order for someone to qualify for the military diversion program, they must have served in the U. military and have experienced one of the conditions mentioned above as a result of their service, as well as having committed a crime for the first time. Los Angeles County has the largest prison system in the world and, despite having an incarceration rate lower than the national average, its jails are still overcrowded. To address this issue, the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) ordered the closure of part of the county jail known as the “Central Men's Jail” (MJC) within 12 months. Los Angeles County has implemented a series of strategies to reform and redesign its criminal justice system to make it fairer and more equitable for all. To ensure that those who are incarcerated have access to help at an early stage, Los Angeles County created the Rapid Diversion Program, a pre-plea judicial program that helps divert people from jails and connect them with rapid mental health assessments and link services. The expansion of the Safety and Justice Challenge pilot program will include increasing access to services and housing in areas near courts involved.
The team that participated in this Challenge brought together people from across the criminal justice system, government agencies, and community organizations to analyze the model of the pilot diversion program and assess its progress towards reform. If a defendant refuses to participate in this program, then their criminal process will continue as usual. The Rapid Diversion Program is currently one of several initiatives under Los Angeles County's Alternatives to Incarceration Initiative (ATI), which helps increase its reach. This initiative is helping to reduce reliance on incarceration and expand referral and treatment programs for those struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, or other conditions.