A pre-arrest diversion program began Monday in Fort Smith. In a partnership between Fort Smith Police Department and Harbor House, Inc., the program aims to help those who committed minor crimes change paths.
Harbor House has several locations across the state helping people overcome addictions. According to their website, Harbor House attempts to treat the whole person.
The Fort Smith Police Department hopes this will reduce the number of individuals placed in the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center, and decrease the likelihood of repeat offenders.
Those entering this program will be at the discretion of the arresting officer and must meet the following eligibility requirements:
Age 18 or older
Not at risk to themselves or others
No prior sexual or violent offenses
Committed one of the pertinent misdemeanor offenses which include possession of marijuana paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor criminal trespass, misdemeanor theft of property, misdemeanor criminal mischief, minor in possession, and solicitation of prostitution.
In a news release, FSPD states that, "The program will give subjects the opportunity to voluntarily access mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment instead of immediate incarceration."
Local police also hope to play a role in turning people away from the cycle of crime and addiction that is present in the city of Fort Smith.
The goal of this partnership is two-fold in that it aims to reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and allow officers to focus on other pressing issues in the community. FSPD wants to improve the community through this and other programs like it.
The program is voluntary and aims to find those with behavioral or mental health issues and keep them from going into the harsh environment of the jail that could make their behavior or mental health worse.
Officers in the department have shown a high level of acceptance for this program, according to FSPD Public Information Officer Aric Mitchell.
The program is designed to help the community and individuals within Fort Smith so they are addressing the problem at its source rather than just dealing with the symptoms that follow.
The program was put into effect on Nov. 9 and will be used at the arresting officer’s discretion.