The Atlanta Fulton Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative is an immediate alternative to jail for individuals whose actions are connected to mental health challenges, problematic substance use, or extreme poverty. Atlanta Police Department officers in Zones 5 and 6 are able to make referrals to PAD Care Navigation teams between 10am - 8pm on Monday - Friday, in order to connect individuals to social services instead of charging with an offense. This includes immediate temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness, linkage to behavioral health, medical care, and community support, and assistance resolving open cases and other legal barriers. Watch our short video from the Today Show to learn more!
PAD has accepted over 160 diversion referrals in the first two years, primarily from downtown, midtown and the Old Fourth Ward. PAD has trained 130 police officers as well as security personnel, business owners, and community residents on non-punitive responses to quality of life concerns that center the safety and well-being of people engaged in drug use, survival sex work, panhandling, or other criminalized behaviors.
By providing a kind and caring connection, immediate safe shelter, and tending to basic needs at the time of diversion, our Care Navigation team provides a direct alternative to jail – one of the primary harms we work to address. The focus of our care navigation services is to reduce criminal justice contact and address quality of life concerns in a way that honors the dignity and self-determination of the participant. Our goal is to work intensively in a 3-6 month period to help the participant remove existing barriers to care (legal, institutional, financial, etc.) and find the most appropriate long-term supports (case management, housing, healthcare, substance use management, family and community connections).
PAD convenes county and city criminal justice stakeholders on a monthly basis to address the legal barriers to success for each PAD participant. This includes reviewing all open cases and supporting participants' in resolving open warrants; working with prosecutors to advocate for dismiss cases or use creative sentencing; connecting participants to the City Public Defender's office for ancillary legal services like Driver's License reinstatement; attending court with participants; and, hosting quarterly legal clinics.