Pre-Arrest Diversion

Pre-Arrest Diversion (or PAD) is a partnership between law enforcement and social service providers that allows police officers to divert people into services instead of arresting them, when the activity is likely related to unmet mental health needs, substance use/misuse, and/or extreme poverty.


  • Reduce Criminal Justice System Involvement for people entering the criminal justice system for behaviors related to drug use, mental health, sex work, and extreme poverty.
  • Reorient Attitudes and Responses from community and public agencies to safety, disorder, addiction, and mental illness – away from criminalization and toward public health responses.
  • Improve Participant & Community Quality of Life through research-based, health oriented, and harm reduction interventions.
  • Strengthen Social Service Infrastructure by improving the quality, raising the standards, and increasing connection between social service providers in Atlanta/Fulton County to benefit program participants and all residents.
  • Advocate for Reallocation of Criminal Justice Funding to fund community based safety approaches
  • Shift Culture and Heal Relationships between communities and law enforcement by shifting the culture of the police department and giving line officers new tools

The Problem

We cannot arrest our way out of the problems facing our communities – in fact, the cycle of arrest and jail time often make it harder for people committing survival crimes to become more stable over time. We know that many quality of life, nuisance and other crimes are driven by unmet mental health needs, substance use/misuse, and/or extreme poverty. By addressing these needs through holistic case management and a network of services we can directly focus on the root causes of many of the issues are communities face. It’s a common sense solution with a big impact.

How We’re Different

  • Pre-Arrest Diversion happens before an arrest is made, instead of after someone has been taken into custody or booked into jail.
  • PAD does not exclude people with criminal records, those who are homeless, or those who cannot pay for the program (there is no charge to participants).
  • PAD has a harm reduction philosophy: we meet people where they are and do not stop working with them when they experience setbacks.
  • PAD social service providers are part of the PAD Social Service Network and receive training and support in order to provide high quality, culturally-competent care.

Our Timeline


  • Solutions Not Punishments (SNaPCO) leads grassroots organizing campaign to defeat banishment ordinance targeting sex workers in Midtown Atlanta


  • Community leaders, legal system partners, and elected officials travel to Seattle to learn about LEAD
  • Atlanta City Council and Fulton County Board of Commissioners unanimously vote to establish PAD Design Team


  • PAD Design Team conducts community outreach and analysis to define pilot area location, eligibility, and protocol
  • Seattle business leaders visit Atlanta to share their experience


  • PAD launches with a mission to coordinate the initiative and provide care navigation for participants
  • PAD begins accepting referrals October 2017 in four police beats


  • PAD expands to 8-beat pilot area, shifts diversion schedule to include daytime hours, and begins working with APD PAD liaison officer
  • PAD has trained 55 officers and successfully diverted 13 participants.

Our Implementation Partners

  • Fulton County Office of the Public Defender
  • Office of the Fulton County District Attorney
  • Office of the Fulton County Solicitor General
  • Atlanta Police Department
  • Atlanta Office of the Public Defender
  • Atlanta Office of the Solicitor