Relatively few of the diversion programs developed in response to the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the United States criminal justice system have targeted initial arraignment or first appearance courts. In 2010, the Legal Aid Society piloted the Misdemeanor Arraignment Project (MAP) in New York City Criminal Court through funding from the Langeloth Foundation. The Project aims to better identify, assess, and represent individuals with mental illness facing criminal charges at the earliest possible stages after arrest.

MAP is an early intervention model that seeks to decrease the frequency of arrest and short jail sentences for individuals with mental illness. MAP enhances the ability of a community to serve people with mental illness and provides them with continuous community-based mental health treatment, appropriate housing, and supports.

The interdisciplinary team includes the attorney and paralegal assigned to the case and a MAP licensed clinical social worker. The attorney is responsible for providing legal representation in arraignments. He/she works together with the other team members to distinguish how and when screening and assessment information should be used in legal advocacy to assist in the successful resolution of the case. The licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is responsible for identifying and assessing detained clients awaiting arraignment, treatment planning, and court advocacy. The paralegal case handler, supervised by the social worker, is responsible for organizing collateral contacts with family, significant others, and community providers. He/she also offers referrals to community treatment and accompanies clients in emergency/crisis situations when necessary.

Individuals who qualify for the target population for MAP:

  • are 18 years of age or more
  • have a mental illness and/or a substance use disorder
  • are at risk of: being arraigned and released without supportive services or a  jail sentence or being held in jail pending a court appearance
  • consent to accept assessment, referral, and connection to treatment

Many MAP clients face challenges like intellectual or developmental disabilities and homelessness or risk of becoming homeless in addition to behavioral health issues. MAP clients may be dealing with current crises (e.g. suicidal ideation) that require immediate attention in a psychiatric emergency room or may have a history of repeated use of inpatient treatment beds, crisis services, and/or correctional healthcare. Existent treatment connections do not preclude a potential client from use of MAP services.

For more information:

The Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation

Legal Aid Society Manhattan Arraignment Diversion Project