Jail Diversion

Working together for better lives and stronger communities.

About Our Jail Diversion Model

Program History

Advocates launched the first Pre-Arrest Co-Responder Jail Diversion Program (JDP) in Massachusetts in 2003 at the Framingham Police Department. The model was successfully replicated in Marlborough (2008), Watertown (2011), and offered on a regional basis in Ashland, Sherborn, Holliston, and Hopkinton (2015).

The Model

The only co-responder jail diversion model in Massachusetts, Advocates JDP pairs police officers with masters-level clinicians who ride alongside officers on all calls involving individuals in a mental health or substance-related crisis. They provide much needed de-escalation, crisis stabilization, assessment/evaluation services and on-the-job training. Advocates Jail Diversion Program is also the only model operating in the Commonwealth that facilitates dual diversions - both from arrest and from emergency departments.

Arrest & Emergency Department Diversion

By providing treatment-based alternatives, clinicians are able to facilitate arrest diversions and reduce costly and unnecessary referrals to hospital emergency departments. Individuals who are not able to be diverted from arrest also receive support, resources, and referrals while in police custody.


Program Need

A disproportionate number of individuals in the Massachusetts criminal justice system have behavioral health disorders. Police officers often receive little training and limited resources to respond to calls involving these individuals.

42% of inmates in the county jail system have a form of mental illness.

26% have major mental illness.

Program Impact

Since 2003, 4,017 individuals have been diverted from arrest or from hospital emergency departments. In the JDP communities, the total estimated cost savings is $11.2 million since inception.

For a full look at the impact data of the Jail Diversion Program, please download our Jail Diversion fact sheet.

Police Satisfaction

“The Framingham Police would not be able to fulfil its mission of keeping Framingham safe without the Jail Diversion Program... The ability to immediately divert low-level offenders away from arrest- and into treatment- benefits everybody.” Kenneth Ferguson, Chief of Police, Framingham Police Department

Officers cite the immediacy of the response, their familiarity with the clinicians, and the clinicians’ ability to de-escalate situations as the most important components of the JDP model.

93% of JDP Police Officers found the clinician helpful

91% of JDP Police Officers found the services helpful

Culture Change

A study was conducted in Ashland, Sherborn, Holliston, and Hopkinton (ASHH) to measure the effects of the Jail Diversion program on police officer attitudes towards the mentally ill in five different categories: Compassion, Kindness, Perceived Dangerousness, Community Inclusion, and Tolerance. One of the most significant changes was in the “Compassion” category, which increased by 15% after one year of the JDP program.

Overall, the program has shown a beneficial and positive impact for police officers and by default is impacting the way they view and respond to calls for service involving individuals in a behavioral health crisis. To view more data, please download our Police Culture Change fact sheet.

Program Replication

As communities have recognized the need for and value of police and mental health partnerships, Advocates has replicated and adapted its successful Framingham Jail Diversion program in a number of communities. The Advocates Jail Diversion team created a step-by-step toolkit to assist communities in the process of developing and implementing their own Jail Diversion programs. To learn more about the program or to request a hard copy of the toolkit, please email Sarah Abbott, Jail Diversion Program Director at SAbbott@Advocates.org.

Related News/Updates

February 2, 2018

As I See It: A local model pointing the way for Massachusetts criminal justice reform

As Massachusetts considers a sweeping criminal justice bill, it is imperative that legislators consider evidence-based programs that are successful

January 29, 2018

Advocates Expands Jail Diversion Program to Hudson, Sudbury

Advocates, a provider of services to individuals facing life challenges, announced the expansion of its pre-arrest, co-responder Jail Diversion Pro