Prosecutor-Led Diversion means directing people away from incarceration and into treatment programs
“As prosecutors, our highest duty is to protect public safety.”
We know the largest category of offenders is re-offenders:
Numerous studies have shown a general pattern for first time offenders to escalate from low level, non violent acts to serious and violent crimes. This model intercepts people at a critical point where intervention can have a positive impact on the individual and public safety. If we’re serious about improving the well-being of our communities, prison should be the last resort.
We’re using data to drive policy and target root causes of crime:
Drug addiction, mental health and systemic poverty drive crime in our region. By intervening before people escalate to violence, diversion is the best tool prosecutors have for increasing public safety. This model has been successful in other cities and we’re collecting and analyzing the data so that we know what works best for St. Louis to produce the highest public safety possible.
We’re building positive outcomes for people and public safety:
We connect people with appropriate treatment and life-skills training and delay charging them with a crime. Because if they are successful in treatment, their future likelihood of committing a crime is greatly reduced. While monitoring their progress, we reserve the right to press charges if they demonstrate a threat to public safety and/or fail to comply with their treatment program(s).
In April 2019, Fox2 News profiled our efforts to expand Prosecutor Lead Diversion resources in St. Louis County.
CLAYTON, Mo. – The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is taking a new approach towards non-violent offenders who struggle with mental illness or substance abuse. “We can’t incarcerate our way out of substance abuse; incarcerate our way out of mental health. We have to treat it," said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell.
Prosecutor Led Diversion
“So many of the people who are arrested and then cross the prosecutor’s doorstep struggle with the illness of addiction and quite often have experienced some recent trauma. As prosecutors, it’s our duty to decide what charges to bring against people who are arrested or to not press any charges at all.
Our choice is the biggest factor in whether that person heads to outpatient treatment and group therapy or is locked behind prison bars, still suffering from an untreated medical condition.” - Wesley Bell
Criminalizing illness is one of the biggest challenges to increasing public safety:
America is locking up people who suffer from diseases like substance use disorder and a variety of mental health conditions. Prosecutor Led Diversion is a way to directly tackle some the biggest contributors to mass incarceration, and do so in a way that leaves both the individual and the community better off as a result.
Prosecutor Led Diversion relies on evidence based public health solutions:
Today there are too many people across our country who may be guilty of the crime we say they committed but who shouldn’t be locked up to face the sentence the old playbook says they need to serve. Our rules around crime and punishment beg to be rewritten with today’s perspectives — informed by the science and research and evidence based solutions we have available in 2019.
Prosecutor Led Diversion
“We can’t stop every bad choice that leads to a crime; but we can, institutionally, stop making bad choices after crimes have been committed.” - Wesley Bell
The Diversion Process:
Diversion happens after an arrest and before charges are issued. Our model is to direct people into treatment and avoid the collateral consequence of conviction.
We identify people whose history shows them to be good diversion candidates along these general guidelines:
☐ Substance use disorder
☐ Mental health issues
☐ Systemic trauma
☐ Low level offenses
☐ Non violent offenses
☐ Felony or misdemeanor
We work with over 40 Community Partners to create individualized treatment plans that can include:
☐ Substance abuse recovery
☐ Mental health counseling
☐ Housing assistance
☐ Parenting classes
☐ Job training & Workforce Development
☐ Financial literacy
We monitor the individuals' progress on their plan. We retain the right to press charges if they do not comply with their treatment plan.
#BellPlan ~ A Message from Wesley ~
“The attorneys and staff in my office have worked really tirelessly to develop policy and implement our Prosecutor Led Diversion program, but we aren’t doing it alone.
Lawyers are clever when it comes to the law, but we aren’t doctors. We aren’t social workers. We aren’t psychologists. We know that relapse is part of recovery and we let the medical professionals gauge people’s progress. We know we need to stay in our lane and that’s why our community partners are so critical to the success of this program and to the healing our community so desperately needs.
It’s not just the organizations that have teamed up with us on Prosecutor Led Diversion who are helping bring about this shift in the structure of our justice system — it’s everyday people, From all across St. Louis County and our region. It’s going to take all of us working together to change the way our community handles balancing public safety with compassionate treatment for individuals.
We each have a role to play in healing our communities from the illness of addiction to lethal substances. We all have a part in reversing the criminalization of mental illness. To solve this crisis, we all must work together, and to work together we need to understand the strengths that each of us brings to this effort.” Wesley Bell - July, 2019 -