Los Angeles County operates the world’s largest jail system, and despite an incarceration rate well below the national average, the system is critically overcrowded. In order to address this the county has undertaken several initiatives intended to divert lower-risk offenders with substance abuse and mental health issues, including: the creation of an Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR); the launch of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pre-booking diversion program for drug offenders; the opening of an alternative destination to jail and hospital emergency departments for chronically inebriated individuals; the implementation of a screening process to reduce time in jail awaiting trial; and a Community Reentry Resource Center to assist jail inmates transitioning back into the community.
To build on past efforts, Los Angeles County was awarded $350,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2017 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population. The county plans to implement strategies aimed at expanding non-jail options for lower-risk offenders and meeting the needs of those who cycle between medical and/or mental health facilities and custody environments, with a focus on the homeless population. This will include selecting and developing a validated risk assessment tool for release evaluation of pretrial defendants and expanding the collaborative Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) which divert mentally ill individuals to community treatment programs. Additionally, Los Angeles County has partnered with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office through the City Attorney’s criminal justice reform-based Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP). NJP diverts certain offenders away from the criminal justice system through restorative justice approaches to reduce over incarceration and impact recidivism rates.