The Prosecution Research Network

The Prosecution Research Network: Research at the Intersection of Behavioral Health and Prosecution

Acutely aware that the criminal justice system has become, by default, the nation’s largest mental health and substance use disorder treatment system, prosecutors across the nation are implementing innovative practices and interventions to divert individuals with unmet mental health and substance use disorder needs toward appropriate health care. These prosecutors are creating alternatives to criminalization and incarceration with the aim of improving public health and public safety outcomes.

In collaboration with our partners at the Equitas Project, an initiative of Mental Health Colorado, we formed a national leadership network of prosecutors interested in advancing innovative practices and interventions at the intersection of mental health, substance use disorders, and criminal justice. Our hope is that this network will lead the way toward an era of unprecedented health, justice, in the United States by:

  • Identifying areas for growth or improvement of prosecutor-led diversion programs
  • Facilitating the establishment, sharing, and refinement of best practices
  • Assisting these jurisdictions with strategies for securing funding and other support to start, continue, and expand diversion and redirection programming

Expanding the reach of prosecutor-led innovations will help to reduce docket pressure and lower costs, allowing resources to be focused on cases that demand more time and attention. Enhancing coordination with other systems, treatment, and community stakeholders will improve public relations and ultimately increase public safety by reducing both criminal justice involvement and poor health outcomes associated with poverty, health risks, lack of access to services, and other public health gaps.

The Prosecution Research Network is currently identifying opportunities for improving and streamlining the process of how individuals with mental health and substance use disorders intersect with prosecution. They are also collecting, evaluating, and standardizing data collection to analyze existing outcomes, practices, and procedures. Members are committed to expanding existing successful programming and implementing new and evidence-driven programming to maximize impact.

The overarching goals of the Prosecution Research Network are to:

  1. Create a brain trust collaborative of engaged prosecutorial offices to improve information- and outcomes-sharing across jurisdictions,
  2. Increase the efficiency of each dollar used on diversion programs by using practices that have demonstrated success,
  3. Tailoring programs to maximize effectiveness among each jurisdiction’s unique client base,
  4. Increase available funding for such programming through both the internal cost savings associated with not prosecuting individuals who would be better served in community treatment services and seeking support from governments, educational institutions, private entities, and other philanthropic investors.

Read the Framework for Prosecution and Public Health developed during a 2020 virtual convening dedicated to identifying research and policy strategies to improve health, reduce incarceration, and increase national safety, prosperity, and wellbeing.

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