Manhattan Arraignment Diversion Project (MAP)

The Manhattan Arraignment Diversion Project (MAP) is an early intervention, inter-disciplinary legal team in selected New York County arraignments parts that represents defendants with mental illness. The Project aims to better identify, assess and represent individuals with mental illness facing criminal charges. These legal teams, which include a clinical social worker, paralegal and peer intern, work collaboratively with the Legal Aid Society attorneys to provide essential social services to better screen, assess and effectuate the best legal outcome for clients.

MAP improves our ability to identify those detainees with mental health issues awaiting arraignment. As noted above, many persons with mental illness walk out of arraignments with no referral for services. This is important as proper identification of mental illness may lead to a favorable disposition, including diversion, and client referral or linkage to services in the community. We believe MAP will also have positive impacts for those not diverted at arraignments through early identification of client issues and needs, reducing the number of court adjournments and jail days and minimize or properly address clients who may have issues related to fitness.

Studies show that those with mental illness are more likely to be arrested, sentenced more severely and detained longer in jail than those with similar charges. A recent study found that 14.5% of male and 31.0% of female inmates recently admitted to jail have a serious mental illness. In New York City, the traditional criminal justice model at the first court hearing, arraignments, offered little to assist those living with mental illness who are arrested.

The systemic impact of MAP is to:

  • Improve court efficiency through streamlining legal cases involving detainees with mental illness;
  • Improve the ability of court staff (lawyers, judges and court officers) to recognize and understand mental illness; and
  • Allow for an examination of an early intervention team model on public defender practices.

The implementation of MAP will build on the work of the New York County Criminal Court Misdemeanor Mental Health Diversion Group to better address those with mental illness in the criminal justice system and have a positive impact on client outcomes, court efficiency, resource conservation and public safety.

Special thanks to the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation for their generous two-year grant making MAP a reality.