Many people commit non-violent crimes as a means of survival. Social determinants barriers, including unemployment and lack of food, may result in substance use, criminal activity, or other negative behaviors. These individuals often spend months to years cycling through the criminal justice system before they can or are able to make a change. Research supports we need to begin to view the criminal justice system through a public health lens to address recidivism. Our goal is to prevent crime through this front-end fulfillment of social services' needs.
We perform an internal review of the cases to determine eligibility for the program. In court, a trained community health worker from a third party provider administers a 36 question screening tool about social determinants barriers and provides linkage to resources to address needs. Resources can include anything from employment prospects, treatment, transportation, or food access. This confidential information is stored in a HIPAA compliant database. The community health worker keeps the defendant on the health worker’s caseload throughout the diversion process to assist with any outstanding issues. Upon successful completion of the program, our prosecutors ask the court to dismiss the criminal case and agree to having the case sealed.