New Diversion First program can keep arrestees with a mental health condition out of jail, Fairfax Criminal Attorney Muhammad Elsayed explains.
Fairfax County announced a program to divert individuals with mental health issues away from the jail, a move partly inspired by the unfortunate death of a female Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmate last year who was stunned with a taser gun multiple times and restrained by sheriff’s deputies at the jail. The program, named Diversion First, directs police officers who arrest non-violent offenders with mental health conditions to divert those individuals either to a mental health facility in Merrifield or to another facility where counseling can be offered, rather than to the jail.
The program marks a significant step in the right direction under the leadership of Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, who has spoken out repeatedly about the urgency of addressing the growing problem of inmates with mental health conditions at the Fairfax County jail. For years, individuals with mental illness who were arrested for any offense, including non-violent and relatively minor offenses, could quickly have their arrest and subsequent detention escalate into violent confrontations with police officers or deputies due to a lack of training on dealing with individuals living with mental illness or experiencing psychotic episodes.
The lack of such a diversion program, to be used to avoid jailing individuals in need of mental health treatment and counseling, further exacerbated that problem. As a result, a significant portion of the inmates at the county jail suffer from varying degrees of mental illness, and many do not receive the type of extensive treatment or counseling necessary for their conditions. Diversion First is a big step in the right direction by the county, and one that hopefully will catch on in neighboring counties.
If you or a loved one is living with a mental health condition and has been accused of a crime, call our trusted Fairfax attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC today.