Alachua County commissioners heard a presentation Tuesday on putting pre-arrest diversion programs in place to prevent arrests and jail time for misdemeanor crimes, including minor drug offenses.
“There is an opportunity because of the grants, for example, that the city just received and some training they went to, to look at options to reduce arrest, which then, obviously, reduces incarceration in the jail,” said Peria Duncan, director of Alachua County Court Services.
Duncan said such programs work to keep individuals from going further into the criminal-justice system.
“If you’re just stealing a pack of gum, for example, that’s a low-level charge that can be handled through a pre-arrest diversion program,” she said.
The state attorney is also discussing a civil citation program that would instead place fines on misdemeanor charges, and the county does already have post-arrest treatment plans.
Overall, though, the city should focus on individual needs, said Carole Fernandez, president of the League of Women Voters Alachua County.
“Our [current] go-to solution for individuals who have issues, mental health or behavioral issues, is to arrest them,” Fernandez said. “Our go-to solution is a criminal-justice system.”