Ocean County will soon begin a pilot program that offers some nonviolent criminals with mental disabilities the chance to get intensive treatment and counseling, instead of being locked up.

Jose Luis Pelaez, Getty Images

The Ocean County Prosecutor's office will receive a $150,000 grant from the state Attorney General, over two years, to pay for the program.

"As long as they complied with the counseling, they would be totally diverted from the system," said Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato. "For the most part they end up being incarcerated, where they truly can't get the care and the treatment that they need; this gets them the treatment right up front."

Coronato also said the county could wind up saving more than a half-million dollars annually, because incarceration runs about $60,000 per year for each inmate.

"As long as they comply with the program and the independent agency gives us the approval, eventually their charges would be dismissed," Coronato said. "It doesn't put a burden on the system itself -- it diverts them from the system. These people are not going to be recycled. We do believe that what will happen here is that they will be able to benefit from the appropriate treatment right from the beginning."

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