Online Program

A Rapid Health Impact Assessment of Sustaining a Jail Diversion Program for Women with Felony Charges in Los Angeles County

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Katherine Butler, MPH, Policy Analysis Unit, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Deena Pourshaban, MPH, Policy Analysis Unit, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Ricardo Basurto-Davila, PhD, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
The rate of incarceration of women has increased substantially in recent decades. Court-based diversion programs might better address the complex treatment needs (mental health, substance use, and post-traumatic stress) of women offenders, thereby potentially improving health and social outcomes. We discuss a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that was conducted in Los Angeles County to inform local and state decision-makers of the health, social and criminal justice system impacts of a court-based diversion program called Second Chance Women’s Re-entry Court (WRC). 

We synthesized information from: published literature and agency reports; site visits to the WRC and women’s county jail; focus groups and interviews with women who have graduated from WRC and jail-based education programs; and an analysis of program data.

The three-year recidivism rate for the 2011-2012 cohort of WRC program clients was 17.5%, compared to 48.9% for the state prison population. Women who graduated from WRC experienced a 54% decrease in homelessness, forged healthier relationships with partners and children, and had significantly higher rates of employment and school attendance after graduating.  The available body of research provides sufficient evidence to support WRC and similar diversion programs as effective alternatives to incarceration. 

The WRC jail alternative program offers women offenders the opportunity to participate in individualized treatment plans, address their co-occurring disorders, reunify with family members, and pursue education and career goals. Overall, the holistic approach of diverting women to a rehabilitative treatment facility decreases their likelihood of recidivating.

Learning Areas:

Program planning
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify at least 3 benefits of sustaining an all-women’s jail diversion program for women in Los Angeles County. Explain how to utilize HIA framework to investigate a non-health sector topic. Discuss the strength of associations between criminal justice system decisions and public health outcomes. Identify meaningful ways to measure recidivism and how’s it’s used as an indicator for public safety.

Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Women's Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have 6 years of experience managing and conducting health assessments of proposed policy, program and/or project decisions to address environmental and social determinants of health. My work in the last year has focused on program recommendations to address mental health outcomes in the education and criminal justice sectors.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.