The first step to developing your own diversion program is to identify goals that the program aims to address. Traditionally, as stated by the NDAA, “the purposes of diversion programs include: Unburdening court dockets and conserving judicial resources for more serious cases; reducing the incidence of offender recidivism by providing community-based rehabilitation that would be more effective and less costly than the alternatives available in continued criminal prosecution.”*
"Ample literature demonstrates cost- and time-effectiveness benefits for criminal justice systems and jurisdictions that implement prosecutor phase diversion programs, and that some diversion programs have measured reductions in recidivism." -Camilletti, C., Pretrial diversion programs: Research summary, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice (2010).
However, two other considerations have emerged recently, and should be considered:
Consistent Non-Discriminatory Application of Plea Deals and Diversion
Proportionality of Punishment to the Crime.
Increasingly, prosecutor guidelines call for policies and consistency as it pertains to charging a defendant and offering diversion. The NDAA Standards, for instance, state that it is important to have standards and guidelines for consistent application of charges and “diversion decisions with respect to similarly situated defendants” when deciding to divert a case.**
Lastly, for many offenses, the social and collateral consequences of formal charges may be perceived to be too harsh. NAPSA Standards states “one of the foremost goals of the diversionary process is to reduce the stigma of a criminal conviction. With open records and online criminal dockets, that goal is compromised in many jurisdictions.”*** At a time when even a non-violent misdemeanor carries lifelong negative collateral consequences, it is important to establish a prosecutor-led diversion program to handle those kinds of charges, where even the collateral consequences are too grave to fit the crime.
We would love to open a discussion about your current diversion program initiatives for your district. Please contact Thomas Jonsson with the information below, or fill out the form on our contact us page.
*NDAA Standards, Part IV, Commentary.
**NDAA Standards, Comments to Part IV.2, and 4-3.5.
***NAPSA Standards, 6.3 Commentary.