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Diversion and Deflection Programs

Overview: Madison Police Department actively seeks opportunities to divert and deflect individuals from the justice system. What’s in the name, diversion versus deflection?

Diversion occurs when police refer individuals to a program or services in lieu of an arrest. Pre-arrest or pre-charge diversion seeks to connect individuals with community based help, while avoiding a damaging arrest record.

Deflection is community based, and entails no criminal justice system involvement beyond an individual’s interaction with a police officer in the field. Police deflection programs aim to reduce crime by connecting people living with mental health struggles or substance use disorder to treatment and recovery resources.

The Madison Police Department has 3 flagship diversion programs and one dedicated deflection team.

Flagship Diversion Programs

  • Our partnership with Community Restorative Court (CRC) launched as a pilot project in the South Police District in July 2015. Community Restorative Court is for 17-25 year olds who are cited for disorderly conduct, simple battery, obstructing an officer, damage to property, or theft (including retail theft). By 2017, every MPD police district was participating in referrals to Community Restorative Court. MPD is the number one referring agency to CRC annually, and has been every year since CRC’s inception. In 2022, 178 referrals were sent to CRC from the Madison Police Department. MPD is actively exploring ways to expand eligibility to this diversion program, including the use of a specialized app and eliminating barriers like non-qualifying, accompanying tickets, which currently prohibit a person from referral to CRC.
  • Madison Police Department also partners with the YWCA and Briarpatch; we refer youth aged 12-16 to these restorative justice partners in lieu of any municipal citation. Youth Restorative Justice Referrals began in September 2015. In March 2021, our current model launched. Any time an MPD police officer in the field investigates and has probable cause to write a municipal (forfeiture) ticket, that officer must instead issue a Restorative Justice Referral to the youth. In 2022, 116 youth “opted in” to restorative justice proceedings by way of this referral system. 18 youth opted out, meaning that they or their families wanted to go to traditional municipal court. In Dane County, municipal court almost always refers those “opting out” youth directly back to a restorative justice partner.
  • The third flagship program is Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative (MAARI), a program for individuals living with substance use disorders who have committed eligible, non-violent offenses stemming from their disease of addiction. The program offers six months of individualized treatment and coaching to participants. Participants must complete the program for non-prosecution of the charges they would have faced. Eligible charges include possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, retail theft, prostitution, and theft/burglary if the victim of the theft/burglary agrees to the MAARI program being offered.

MAARI has over 40 graduates to date, spanning September 2021-July 2023.
We are currently in the second iteration of this program; the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) pilot program ran from 2017-2020, and our current program launched in September 2020.

Deflection Program

  • The Addiction Resource Team is multidisciplinary, and utilizes a police officer and a Peer Specialist from Safe Communities. The teams follows up with people who have experienced a non-fatal overdose or other precipitating event that brought them into contact with Madison Police or Madison Fire personnel. The purpose is to connect individuals with recovery resources, meet people where they are, and provide harm reduction materials. The team distributes the opioid reversal agent Naloxone and fentanyl test strips on outreach visits.

To date, the team has visited over 350 unique individuals in Madison since April 2021.

The MAARI program began on September 1, 2020. It is a 3 year grant-funded program. MAARI builds upon the successes of our original pre-arrest diversion program, MARI, which ran from September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2020.

Diversion Team