EBR Pre-Trial Release


This program diverts people with mental illness and substance abuse challenges to treatment when they are arrested for nonviolent crimes.

Each week, the Bridge Center diverts one or two people to therapy programs instead of jail. The program is trying to prove what independent research has already shown: treatment is cheaper than imprisonment, and appropriate therapy lets many people return to productive lives. Plus, treatment for mental illness instead of imprisonment is the right thing to do.

How it works: A social worker is staffed at the parish prison. Her job is to search through dossiers of people with mental illness and addictions. She looks for clues that that one or more of them deserve a chance at treatment. A state District Court Judge, the EBR Public Defender and the EBR District Attorney must agree to give a person with mental illness or an addiction a chance at treatment. Then, a case manager monitors the participant's progress, ensuring compliance with the terms of their release.


Here’s a real example. A woman in her 30s seems a good candidate for treatment. Picked up for simple possession, the woman has a family that hasn’t given up on her, and four children to go home to. She convinces the social worker that the love for her children is greater than the pull of the drug. Her case is presented to the justice department officials, who agree that treatment is the better option. The woman is placed in a strict rehab program, where she must work to earn her keep for months before being released and returning home.