PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh City Council introduced a bill today to look at replacing jail time with help for people convicted of certain low-level crimes.

The Diversion Program is about breaking the cycle of incarceration for people who may just need some help to get on the right track.

The goal is to give police options with low-level and nonviolent crimes.

“Not every time when you arrest somebody do they need to go straight into our jail or into retention,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor.

The pilot program would start on the North Side.

It would be funded by grant money and aim to help people who have committed crimes stemming from behavioral issues, including crimes related to mental health, poverty and substance abuse.

Councilman O’Connor, who introduced the bill, says it would benefit police and the community.

“I think any benefit to help them doing their job each and every day, especially with the social aspect, is going to benefit everybody,” he said.

Some of the issues, this diversion program aims to address are:

  • Working to ensure participants do not enter the criminal justice system.
  • Support people who interact with police often, specifically those associated with crimes of poverty and refer them to social services and support.
  • And be harmed reduction based.

Councilman O’Connor say the time to start this program is now with nationwide calls for police reform and jail overpopulation.

“Some people are there for the wrong reasons,” Councilman O’Connor said. “How do we get them support that they need? And I think helping each and every resident of Pittsburgh in a different, unique way really benefits everybody.”

The earliest Council could vote on the bill for the program would be next week. Councilman O’Connor doesn’t expect any problems with Council passing it.

“It shouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “A lot of people are talking about providing more social services to not only our residents, but to help our police, so I don’t see any controversy on Council with this vote.