The Issue

Access to health care, including SUD and mental health services, improves criminal justice outcomes and reduces recidivism.  Leveraging the health insurance coverage expansions of the Affordable Care Act to promote appropriate diversion away from the criminal justice system will promote improved health and justice outcomes and save both systems significant amounts of money.

Current Initiatives

Policy Recommendations

  • Earlier diversion: Governments should consider diversion programs to divert defendants from the justice system as early as possible. People should be connected to crisis intervention centers, community-based substance use or mental health treatment, or other evidence-based services at early justice-system intercepts:
    • Before arrest;
    • Before charging or booking;
    • Before a guilty plea or conviction.
  • Smarter diversion: Federal, state, and local governments should expand the use of diversion programs to get people into substance use disorder and mental health care while ensuring these programs do not widen the criminal justice net by imposing more severe penalties and sanctions on people who do not immediately succeed in treatment.
  • Incentivized diversion: Federal and state governments should create incentives and encourage prosecutors to use diversion and alternatives to incarceration, including allowing defendants in appropriate cases to avoid receiving a criminal conviction if they are willing to participate in diversion programs that can hold them accountable while also addressing their underlying health needs.

Learn More

To learn more about this issue, visit our Criminal Justice and Health Resources.

To learn more about LAC’s impact, see our Accomplishments.


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