Our 2020 Strategic Vision

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Care Not Cuffs: A National Public Health Awareness Campaign


The Care not Cuffs campaign is designed to change behavior, not just to change hearts and minds. It will bring awareness to the problem of defaulting to law enforcement, and will authentically build demand for a mental health care first responder system. We will inform the public that when they reach out for help, there should be a health response instead of law enforcement response. In so doing, we foster the demand for real, tangible change starting with the public and also targeting those with the power to improve crisis response systems and coordination among community leaders, health care providers, and legislatures.


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Fitness Diversion Blueprint Project


A collaborative project orchestrated by The Equitas Project, and in partnership with the National Council on Behavioral Health, Cook County Public Defender’s Office, Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman, and local partners, the Fitness Diversion Blueprint Project collaborators will produce a toolkit for jurisdictions to adopt in order to implement an alternative to traditional competency restoration/fitness assessments by diverting justice system clients pre-plea when their mental health condition caused the infraction. Inspired by Judge Leifman’s Criminal Mental Health Project, which saved Miami millions of dollars annually and diverted enough mentally ill and qualifying defendants to close a jail, the Blueprint Project will allow more jurisdictions to pilot and sustain replicated models of their own, as Amy Campanelli and Cook County, Illinois have done to great success.

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Model Law Writing Work Group


Spearheaded and chaired by Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman, a nationally renowned leader in mental health advocacy, and propelled by The Equitas Project, the Model Law Writing Work Group is in the process of drafting model civil commitment language for state-by-state adoption. The legal language will improve the ability of state and local health systems to stabilize and provide care for people with unmet mental health needs, and will reflect contemporary understandings of brain science and its implications for legal action and health systems.

Model language is set to be published in the fall of 2020.

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Prosecution Research Network


Co-led by Equitas National Advisor Associate Professor Carrie Pettus-Davis, Ph.D., M.S.W., Director of the Institute for Justice Research and Development, alongside The Equitas Project, the Prosecution Research Network convenes and coordinates with prosecutor offices across the country. Recognizing the unique leadership role of prosecutors in preventing the fruitless incarceration of people who are not simply hardened criminals but who are primarily afflicted with untreated mental illnesses, the Network seeks to help offices evaluate, expand, develop, and fund their diversion programs, and will publish a first-ever toolkit to aid researchers in comparing these offices “apples-to-apples.”

Learn More.