Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to send New Yorkers arrested for prostitution and drug offenses into a new treatment center rather than punitive detention centers that tend to just exacerbate existing issues.
According to a concept paper [PDF] put forth by the Department of Health, the city is looking to open a Public Health Diversion Center as an alternative destination for thousands of arrestees, many of whom are incarcerated based on flimsy violations like the inability to make bail while awaiting their hearing or trial.
The Health Department posits that keeping these offenders out of jail would save the public some serious cash, especially considering that 40 percent of the daily jail population already receive jail-based mental health services, and detainees often leave the system without any additional supports to "improve their health outcomes and, therefore, public safety."
The new center, based on a similar program in Seattle, would feature a 24-hour drop-off location in a neighborhood with particularly severe health and criminal justice disparities—likely Harlem—and will serve roughly 1,200 each year. Participants would be given access to health services like counseling, withdrawal treatment and short-term case management, in addition to overnight shelter and food.
The city is currently soliciting bids for a vendor, who will be awarded a three year contract beginning July 2015.