Abstract: The Effects of Diversion Program on Recidivism (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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415P The Effects of Diversion Program on Recidivism

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Burcu Ozturk, Phd, Postdoc Fellow, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
David McLeod, Associate Professor and Director of the Knee Center for Strong Families, University of Oklahoma, Norman
Andrew Bell, MPA, Justice Data Analyst, Oklahoma Policy Institute, Tulsa
Ryan Gentzler, MPA, Research Director, Oklahoma Policy Institute, Tulsa
Background and purpose: Recidivism is a considerable problem in the states and, without consequences, remains a problem today. Recidivism is defined by rearrest, reconviction, or return to jail or prison with or without a new sentence during the three years following an individual's release from a carceral space (National Institute of Justice,2008). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), approximately66% of prisoners released across 24 states in 2008 were arrested within three years, and 82% were rearrested within 10years (Antenangeli & Matthew, 2021). Oklahoma has an incarceration rate of 993 per 100,000, including jails, immigration detention, prison, and juvenile justice facilities, which means that incarceration rates stand out internationally (Prison Policy Initiative, 2021). Existing literature suggests that evidence-based reentry policies and programs that have been enacted in recent years have been shown to improve outcomes for people released from prison (Gelb & Velazquez, 2018; Pettus-Davis et al., 2017). In the existing literature, little research incorporates an understanding of how diversion programs are applied among adults involved with criminal justice system involvement, specifically those in diversion programs. Consequently, the current study aims to understand how diversion programs affect the recidivism rate in Oklahoma County. The researchers utilized available data to ask: How does justice navigation-based diversion program participation impact community-level brief (one-year) recidivism rates?

Method: Data were collected from the above-noted group of justice-involved individuals receiving qualifying services in a diversion program in a mid-sized metropolitan area. The sample includes n=757 people. Researchers used the open-source statistical programming language R to match diversion client data to openly available county-level public court system data using the clients' names and dates of birth. The county data used were from the same locality as the diversion programming. The diversion data included clients' start date or the date they first began participating in the diversion program and their end date when they left the program. The study was based on a newer community organization launching only two years ago and during the COVID-19 pandemic, so researchers combine a year of diversion data, with one year of jail data, from the same time frame.

Results: Results indicate that those who completed the diversion program were substantially less likely to be booked into jail. Of the 81 people who completed the program, just three were booked back into the jail after their completion date (3.7%). Recidivism rates were comparatively higher among those who received only emergency services (29 of 109, or 26.6%, were re-booked after their end date), those who disengaged from the program (172 of 551, or 31.22% re-booked), or those who were discharged from the program before completing it (5 of 16, or 31.25% re-booked).

Conclusion: Findings suggest the importance of retention in diversion programming. Also, forensic social work leads and supports multidisciplinary teams that combine program treatment, rehabilitation, and support services for individuals subject to the criminal justice system. Therefore, this study will provide resources for the future researcher, policymakers, and forensic social workers to improve the efficacy of diversion-related services.