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Ocean County to Host Jail Diversionary Program for Defendants With Mental Illnesses

Defendants would avoid jail with treatment for their illnesses

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
Ocean County will be the host county of a pilot diversionary program that can offer people with mental disabilities an alternative to incarceration.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the two year-long program Monday which will be led by the county prosecutor's office. Under the pilot, Ocean County will offer treatment and counseling through contracted services to eligible participants in lieu of risking a prison sentence. 

Program participants will be monitored by case managers who will ensure that the defendants comply with treatment plans and medication, Hoffman said in the announcement. The case managers will report back to the prosecutors, the court, and defense counsel about the participants’ progress. 

"Diversionary programs such as this one focus on getting help for those who need it most," Hoffman said. “This first-of-its-kind initiative will give critical services to defendants in need of treatment and counseling."

The program will focus on "low level" criminal defendants with a diagnosed
mental health disorder or mental health disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder. Consideration will also be given to the nature and severity of the alleged crime and the defendant's prior criminal record.

Hoffman said the program "is not only a cost-effective alternative to prison, but research consistently indicates that it results in lower levels of recidivism among participants than the general inmate population" since roughly one-quarter of inmates with a mental health disability have been previously incarcerated three or more times and about three-quarters have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

The program will be funded through a grant from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office will receive a total of $150,000 over two years. The funding is being provided from criminal forfeiture monies obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice. In addition, the county will provide a total of $50,000 through a combination of in-kind and monetary funds.

"On behalf of the citizens of Ocean County, I would like to thank the Office of the Attorney General for selecting our county to pilot this ground breaking innovative program,” stated Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, in a statement. "The people of Ocean County will benefit greatly from the timely and appropriate attention to the mental health needs of the selected program participants."
WMS826 February 24, 2014 at 05:11 PM
Maybe we can Brian and DAS sign up along with their drug addict buddies.
Av February 24, 2014 at 10:27 PM
Wms= DB!!!

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