California Diversion: Mental Health, Racial Equity, and Criminal Court

Funded on

On January 1, 2019, California Assembly Bill 1810 established a pathway to diversion for individuals whose mental illness had a significant role in the crime for which they were charged, with some violent crimes excluded. Mental health diversion is a process through which defendants can participate in community-based mental health treatment; if the treatment program is successfully completed, the charges are dropped. AB 1810 also provided $100 million for county programs to help divert defendants from jail into treatment. Due to COVID-19 and other factors, counties have been instituting new mental health diversion protocols and programs at varying levels, though, so California is still early in the implementation process. 

This project will study the implementation and impact of California AB 1810, asking: 

  1. How is the mental health diversion process functioning, particularly with respect to reducing racial disproportionality?  

  1. For those who participate in AB 1810 diversion, what are the effects on criminal behavior and social well-being (e.g., mental health, housing), especially for people of color?  

This research will provide actionable results as counties develop their mental health diversion policies and procedures in accordance with AB 1810, particularly as courts re-open in the wake of COVID-19. In so doing, this project will not only benefit racial justice in the criminal legal system in California but also efforts to pursue racial equity through the increased use of mental health diversion nationwide.