Street Diversion and Decarceration

45 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2012

See all articles by Mary D. Fan

Mary D. Fan

University of Washington School of Law

Date Written: 2012


This article explores innovations in policing strategies that take a public health approach to drug offending. The article focuses on street diversion to treatment rather than criminal processing. States seeking cost-effective approaches to dealing with addiction beyond incarceration have explored innovations such as drug courts and deferred prosecution. These treatment-based programs generally involve giving diversion discretion to prosecutors and judges, actors further down the criminal processing chain than police. The important vantage of police at the gateway of entry into the criminal system has been underutilized. The article analyzes the merits of giving police therapeutic discretion — the power to sort who gets treatment rather than enters the criminal justice system. The article draws insights from medicine and the experience of treatment courts about how to guide therapeutic discretion, mitigate the risk of racial disparities in selection of beneficiaries, and offer checks and balances on power.

Keywords: Diversion Programs, Drug Offenders, Cost-Effective Criminal Justice, Seattle Police Department, LEAD, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, Drug Courts, Treatment Courts, Rehabilitative Policing

Suggested Citation

Fan, Mary, Street Diversion and Decarceration (2012). American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 50, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Mary Fan (Contact Author)

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195
United States


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