Readout of Justice Department Leadership Visit to Miami Mental Health Court and Diversion System – Department of Justice

November 19, 2022

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Yesterday, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Director Karhlton F. Moore of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) met with judicial leaders and criminal justice professionals in Miami to discuss responses to mental health issues in the justice system. Associate Attorney General Gupta and Director Moore heard from Judge Steven Leifman of Florida’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit about the Criminal Mental Health Project, a program he created in 2000 to divert people with mental illnesses away from jail and into community-based treatment. The presentations included judges, prosecutors, public defenders, peer recovery specialists and representatives from local police departments discussing the success of the program. Thousands of people have been kept out of jail under the Miami model, and only a fraction of graduates re-offend. Estimates suggest that nationwide about 15% of men and more than 30% of women in jails have a serious mental illness, compared to about 4% of people in the general population.
BJA Director Moore and the BJA leadership team provided an overview of the BJA Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, which has awarded 679 state, local and Tribal grants to support responses to people with mental illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Two years ago, BJA also launched Connect and Protect, designed to strengthen partnerships between law enforcement and behavioral health agencies. Miami-Dade County is a national Law Enforcement-Mental Health Learning Site and is recognized as a model for its approach to diverting people with mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders.


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