A defendant’s inability to pay should not be a barrier to the offer of diversion. However, without grant funding or a budget allocation, the likely source to cover some or all of the cost of a diversion program will be from the offender themselves. It is important to keep the program affordable and to have something in place for indigent offenders. The cost of diversion programs can be steep. See e.g., Shaila Dewan and Andrew W. Lehren, Alabama Prosecutor Sets the Penalties and Fills the Coffers, N.Y. Times, Dec. 13, 2016.
A good measure to consider is comparing the cost of diversion programs to the defendant’s potential out-of-pocket trial costs, including filing fees and court fees. Often, even an offender-funded diversion program is more cost effective for the participant than traditional court costs and fees. However, be wary of hidden out-of-pocket costs like drug testing and counseling.
Offering payment plans instead of billing the full amount of diversion up front, as well as providing fee assistance from an indigent fund, are two strategies that help defendants pay for the program. Another strategy is to charge program fees on a sliding scale based on the defendant's income.
Lastly, one way to keep program costs low for defendants and administration costs low for your office is to look for outside partners to administer some or all of the diversion program conditions. These companies and organizations take on the paperwork, administrative duties, and infrastructure that are costly and time consuming to do in-house, without taking over any prosecutorial functions. (i.e., payment options/processing, call center operations, and coordinating with drug test centers, community service providers, and instructors)
When considering a diversion program partner, here are some key qualities to look for:
Experience (do they have a successful track record of doing this type of work?)
Financial stability (have they demonstrated that they can financially handle the startup and maintenance of the diversion program and staff it accordingly?)
Transparency of their operation and results
Case management software that includes robust reporting capabilities
Call center capabilities (are they reliably present to answer participants' questions?)
If you would like to have a discussion about your current diversion program or about a search for diversion partner that has the key qualities above, contact Thomas Jonsson at the information below or visit our contact us page today!