The Diversion Programs
Louisiana State University Alexandria
What is a diversion program? Diversion programs can be described as many different things. A diversion program can be seen as a form of rehabilitation or a detour sentence. When a defendant qualifies for a diversion program, they can avoid a prison sentence. However, do diversion programs work? To answer this question, one must know what a diversion program is.
Diversion programs started as a solitary network program in the late 1970s. However, many locations did not develop this program at similar times. For example, Virginia’s Fairfax Prison did not give individuals the opportunity to enroll in this program until 2015. The diversion program was a network equity program that was expected to redirect minor offenders, sometimes felony offenders too, out of the court framework. The program's prosperity drove the state council to grow it to youth over the State, and in 1982 to adults ups also (3 VSA §163 and §164). It was seen as a way to rehabilitate offenders while avoiding jail time.
There are multiple types of diversion programs the courts can choose from. There are the main categories, formal and informal. Then they are separate categories. This allows the offender to understand what programs they might enroll in. For example, drug courts or DUI courts. However, the requirements and rules of their programs differ. The two main classifications of diversion programs include formal and informal. Both have similar ways of qualification.
A formal diversion program has mediatory programs the courts must choose. During the formal diversion, the defendant must enter a plea. This plea can be guilty or no contest. No contest is when a defendant accepts charges but does not please guilty. However, informal diversion programs do not require a plea. Informal is when an official decides the matter can be settled without court. Usually, when an informal program is chosen, it is because the officials involved want it to stay out of the justice system. However, if either program is completed, the offender's charges might be dismissed.
Diversion programs can also be classified into smaller detailed parts. Restorative justice programs focus on rehabilitation. One example is community-based programs that focus on giving back to the community. Jail diversion is an alternative practiced by the arresting officers. On account of a minor offense, a summons can be given, showing the date and time for the person who has been charged to deal with the indictments in court. Many factors are considered when choosing a diversion program. One factor considered is the type of crime. When looking into diversion programs, it is best to consider programs that will help the offender. For example, drug-related crimes best fit substance abuse programs.
Louisiana offers a variety of different drug diversion programs. One program they offer is the Louisiana supreme court drug program. This helps individuals who have typically have drug charges. The rates have demonstrated critical decreases in recidivism for members in drug courts contrasted with those who are sentenced to imprisonment. That has demonstrated valid for about 15,000 people who have completed the diversion program. These projects have diminished three-year recidivism rates that are over 10%.
The state of Louisiana offers another type of program, which is the DWI diversion program. This is a way for DWI offenders to avoid jail time but still work on their drinking habits. However, this program has many factors involved in qualification. The first time offender must not have received charges for a violent felony. Furthermore, the offender many can not qualify if they have an open container at the time of the incident. Like other programs, it is a way to have their first-time charges dropped.
To qualify for a prison diversion program you must meet the minimum requirements. Before being accepted, the court will look at the crime committed and do a background check. Usually, people that committed a minor crime and have no past history will qualify. Small crimes can include petty theft, DUIs, and other non-violent offenses. However, these vary in each state. The offender is not eligible for the program if they completed a different diversion program in the past. After a city prosecutor or district attorney has received the case, they will choose if the offender is qualified to participate in diversion programs.
Mentally ill offenders can qualify for the diversion program if they meet all the requirements. In 1992, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and Public Citizen's Health Research Group discharged a report uncovering alarmingly high quantities of individuals with genuine dysfunctional behavior or mental illness imprisoned in the United States.
In 2015, Virginia adopted the Diversion program because of a mentally ill inmate. Natasha McKenna, who suffered from mental illness, died at the hands of the police. After becoming frustrated and confused because of a transport delay, she started acting out. Because of this police used tasers to control her. However, from the excessive use of fore, Mckenna eventually died. After this incident, the state of Virginia’s Fairfax County jail developed the Diversion Program.
The correctional facilities and penitentiaries are progressively turning out to be distribution centers for our country's intellectually sick. Untreated psychological sickness frequently prompts practices that draw in the consideration of cops. Since scarcely any networks have a sufficient foundation to give psychological wellness treatment and administrations, a significant number of these people become lost despite a general sense and go untreated. When individuals don't get treatment after an arrest, their condition will intensify when they are in authority, improving the probability of re-capture after their discharge. With jail diversion programs, the mentally ill will get proper help.
In Louisiana, there are certain requirements for any pretrial diversion program. To qualify as a first-time offender in Louisiana, the person charged should show that they have had no past introduction to the criminal justice system. With a background check, the court can determine if the person charged has any past offenses. In the event that they do, they may be banned from the program. The list of minor offenses in Louisiana, that qualify for the diversion program is relatively small. Like many other states, their list consists of DUIs and drug possession. Louisiana also qualifies those with charges similar to alcohol possession by a minor. This means a juvenile who is caught with illegal alcohol can qualify for the program.
Age can be a factor to determine if an offender can qualify for the diversion program. In Louisiana, an offender must be 17 through 25. The state of Louisiana includes an adult diversion program for those above the age of 25. However, there are certain age differences in other states. Diversion programs can help both adult offenders and juvenile offenders. To enroll in a juvenile diversion program, the offender must be under the age of 18. However, to enroll in the program as a young adult, the offender must be under 26. An offender above the age of 26 will be able to qualify for the adult diversion programs. This age may differ between States; however, the rules and requirements for each program are still the same.
Another factor is the cost of the program. Unlike prison, many offenders must pay for the programs they attend. The cost of a program varies according to the type of program and criminal charges. The court does not assign programs based on income. However, those in the lower class may not be able to afford the fees and fines that are involved in the diversion program.
In Louisiana, programs that revolve around DUIs can cost more than programs related to drug charges. Guilty parties with a DUI allegation will have a $1,000 enrollment fees, different charges for liquor screening and observing, charges for classes, in addition to the monthly charge of $30. The total amount relies upon the particular prerequisites. For other states, the fees for a DUIs offender may vary.
An offender with a first-time drug charge can have different costs. This depends on the type of charges. A minor offense can complete the program with an enrollment fee of $500. However, if there if a felony offender who qualifies for the program, the offender would have to pay an enrollment fee of $1,000. Another fee will be added for an evaluation. This too can vary depending on the charges. Minor offenders will have to pay $250 dollars for an evaluation while felony offenses typically cost $375. Both drug offenders will have to pay for services and drug tests. However, these cost a for Louisiana. For other states, drug costs can vary.
Once an offender enters a diversion program, there are certain regulations the offender must meet. He or she must agree to random drug tests. While enrolled in the program, the offender can not commit any crimes or offenses. If the offender tests positive for any illegal substance, he or she will be terminated from the program immediately. Similar to this, if the offender is convicted of another crime, the offender’s enrollment will be terminated.
Other requirements depend on the diversion program selected for the offender. For Lee County’s Pretrial Diversion Program, there are seven to eight mandatory tasks that need to be completed. The first task to complete a written plea of guilty. Second, the offender must relinquish his right to a trial by jury. The offender must agree to the limitations and conditions of the diversion programs. Another agreement the offender must make is to pay the fees needed for certain programs. The final requirement before finishing the program is the consent to a search and seizure. Any object related to the crime must be seized. Failure to meet these requirements or complete the program will result in termination.
Time length can vary for each diversion program. Diversion programs can last six to 12 months. This depends on the offender, the amount of community service, and the programs. During this time offenders will focus on rehabilitation, community service, program-based decisions, and other factors. Once completed, the conviction and program may be omitted from a person’s records.
The controversial issue many have today is if diversion programs really work. Many agree with the programs, as it is a way to clean one’s record or avoid jail time. However, many say the program only looks good on paper. Certain individuals think there are some flaws in the diversion program. It is certain that this program does raise a large group of legal and moral inquiries, including whether they are unfair for criminal respondents, with those ready to pay increasing a bit of leeway over the individuals who can't, and whether they make money related motivators for investigators to discard cases in manners they may not something else
First, one must understand, the American public believes taking someone’s liberty away is the main reason for corrections. When an inmate is placed behind bars, it may seem to others as the best way to lower crime right. It may also seem like a safer way for individuals to live because the inmate is now behind bars. While, there are other alternatives, like probation and diversion, Americans feel that incarceration is the primary punishment for individuals and it is the safest option. Jail diversion is an option, but it is there are individuals who think it is unsafe and unethical to let offenders be free.
These ”flaws” consist of a variety of factors. Many individuals feel not everyone who qualifies for diversion programs has the means or opportunity to do so. For example, costs can affect a person’s ability to enroll in the program. As mentioned before, the cost of the diversion program depends on many factors. The price can be affected by fines, tickets, the type of program, or time length. The prisons or officials do not pay for this, however; the offenders pay for the programs and other fines included. Many offenders come from low-income families. They cannot pay for these programs. This means that unless they find a way to enroll in the program, they might face original charges.
Many believe programs can hurt the poor but help the rich. This is because it is regularly utilized as a "free go" by well off families who can afford a lawyer to utilize the legal procedure, but an officer may conclude that the case does require prosecution. An example of failure to pay is Marcy Willis. Marcy Wills was charged with felony theft after failing to return a rental car. She was able to complete the program assigned to her. However, Ms. Willis was not able to pay the full amount of $690 to the court. Even though Marcy Willis paid all, but $240, her case was not dismissed. Many people feel that individuals with cash could afford the cost of another opportunity. In spite of the fact that the Diversion program was presented as a cash sparing change, a few locales immediately transformed it into a source of revenue.
Another issue is the failure to provide a chance. An example of this issue would be Melissa Braham’s case. Melissa was a 27-year-old mother who was currently moving. When police located her in Kansas, she was found to have drug paraphernalia. Ms. Braham was charged with misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia possession. Kansas state law stated at the time, that if an offender can qualify for a diversion program, the offender should receive a letter of enrollment. Melissa Braham could qualify for the program and pay the fees or costs upfront. However, she was never enrolled. She had the requirements or qualifications to enroll, but officials did not give her the opportunity to complete the program. Melissa Braham was incarcerated and her children were placed in foster care. If she was given the opportunity, her prison sentence would have been avoided, and she would be able to keep her children.
The diversion programs may help offenders get away with their crimes many times. If an offender commits a crime without getting caught, then months later commits another crime, gets caught, and qualify for a diversion program, the offender may be thinking of staying on the wrong path. This offender may repeat crimes thinking that he or she will be able to get away with it.
When thinking of offenders, we must also think of the victims. Occasionally, domestic violence charges are brought into the diversion program. This can be unsafe for the victims of those charges. They may feel scared or helpless. Furthermore, they may feel as if justice has not been served. It can also give the offender a sense of courage to repeat their actions. The courts must act carefully in any cases that involve victims. They must ask themselves a variety of questions.
Will the victim be safe? If not, they need to find options that will help both the victim and the offender. Sometimes, giving them the option of jail diversion is like saying “boys will be boys.” One must consider if this will actually help both the offender and the victim. The domestic violence program was canceled in California for this reason and for others. Other factors involved in the cancellation was the lack of resources and variability with programs.
Why was the offender arrested? Sometimes individuals get arrested to defend themselves. The Domestic Abuse Program in Duluth help battered women who were charged to avoid jail time. This program address the developing number of arrests of aggressive behavior at home casualties who utilized brutality because of battering. Ladies will, in general, concede at their first appearance, especially in the event that they have not spoken with an advocate. With another police arrangement and preparing explicit to comprehension and putting forth concentrated effort protection and overwhelming assailant factors, arrests have decreased significantly.
The diversion program may have some cons, but it comes with many pros. One way the diversion program works is as a rehabilitation program. With these programs, the hope is to divert the offenders from the path they are on. The rehabilitation program can help understand why the offender decided to commit the crimes that they did. These programs can provide substance abuse or counseling. The program works as a way to stop repeat offenders, and decrease the rate of criminal activity. It is a way to rehabilitate, not punish, an offender.
For those that can afford the program, it will cost the court less for them to enroll in the program then for them to be imprisoned. This will also save the state tax dollars. The year before Marcy Willis was charged, Rebecca Horting was charged. Rebecca, a 36-year-old, was charged with reckless battery and texting while driving. In her accident, Rebecca injured a juvenile causing brain damage and an amputation. Ms. Rebecca was able to pay her entire diversion cost and have her case dismissed. Ultimately, a different ending than Marcy Willis. This was because Rebecca Horting was able to pay her fees and charges.
The diversion program can be considered a good thing for mentally ill offenders. By keeping them out of jail, those offenders have more means and resources to get the help they need. Diversion programs are ways in which people with a psychological sickness who are associated with criminal activity are diverted from customary pathways, like incarceration, to the emotional well-being and substance abuse treatment. In an article written by Robert T Muller, he stated, that in an interview with the Trauma and Mental Health Report, Abbot explained:
JDP effectively divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system and has been shown to be successful in the prevention of unnecessary arrests for those who suffer from a mental illness. Police choose to transfer offenders to JDPs 75% of the time. (Muller. 2018. P.9)
There are many issues in jails and prisons today that can make jail diversion seem like a very good option. One issue is the overcrowding in prisons is jailed. By enrolling in the diversion program individuals be able to prevent overcrowding or at least lessen the number of prisoners a jail has. Another issue is the lack of treatment and then an inmate gets in a prison environment. When an individual is able to avoid prison and he was the diversion program, they will have access to more resources available to them. They will be able to see private therapists, go to meetings, or get the medicine they need that may be hard to get in a prison environment.
Another issue in jails is the rates of suicides. Currently, jails have a large rate of suicides. Many factors are taken into account when discussing suicides. Age, race, health, and their charges are factors involved. Jails are smaller than prisons, which means they have fewer programs and help. Many jail suicides occur in an isolated environment. It is most likely that jails with fewer detainees have a higher suicide rate, because of isolation, less help, and less trained staff to deal with these incidents. When an individual avoids a sentence, they are ultimately avoiding the isolation, emptiness, lack of help, and all the negativity involved with the sentence. This might mean they are less likely to commit suicide. However, if an individual still confers suicide, being on the diversion program means more reliable sources to save them
When enrolled in the program the offender can live a basic normal life. Most offenders in these types of programs will be able to keep their jobs. This means that they will have the necessities of life. Individuals enrolled will be able to see their loved ones, without the visitation rules and regulations they may find in prison. The offender will also avoid incarceration. Enrolling in the diversion program will cause less of a struggle for the offender and for the officials.
As mentioned before, if an offender fully completes the diversion program, the charges for that crime may be dropped or reduced. However, the charge is only dropped if the offender completes the program. In the event that the respondent neglects to meet the states of the pretrial preoccupation program, investigators can treat the case as though no redirection had occurred.
Diversion programs may have some flaws. However, I agree with what they are trying to do. The criminal justice system was created for rehabilitation, not punishment. Many do not think this way, but they can see it with the programs the criminal justice system offers. The diversion programs can help first-time offenders not go down a path of wrongdoing. It can help many single parents or working individuals. If an offender commits a small non-violent crime, the diversion program is there to keep them from entering prison. If such minor offenders enter prison, it could cause them to lose their job, custody of their kids, their house. Many things can be affected negatively. The diversion program can rehabilitate offenders.
Author(s): Wilson. (2018, September 26). The Effect of Youth Diversion Programs on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review. Retrieved from https://nicic.gov/effect-youth-diversion-programs-recidivism-meta-analytic-review
Carlson, P. M. (2015). Prison and jail administration: practice and theory (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Juvenile Diversion Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.crimesolutions.gov/PracticeDetails.aspx?ID=37
Kubic, M. W., & Pendergrass, T. (2018, July 9). Diversion Programs Are Cheaper and More Effective Than Incarceration. Prosecutors Should Embrace Them. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/smart-justice/diversion-programs-are-cheaper-and-more-effective-incarceration-prosecutors
Muller, R. T. (2018, March 8). For Mentally Ill, Jail Diversion Program Gives Second Chance. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-trauma/201803/mentally-ill-jail-diversion-program-gives-second-chance
Potmam, J. (2014, April 29). Diversion, Mediation or Treatment Instead of Criminal Conviction. Retrieved from https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/criminal-defense/criminal-defense-case/avoid-conviction-diversion.htm
Sadusky, J. (2003). Battered Women’s Protection Project. Prosecution Diversion in Domestic Violence, 1–23. Retrieved from https://www.bwjp.org/assets/documents/pdfs/prosecution_diversion_domestic_violence_cases.pdf
Schwartz, E., Gest, T., Bilyeau, N., TCR Staff, & Justice News. (2018, July 5). Do Jail Diversion Programs Really Work? Retrieved from https://thecrimereport.org/2018/07/03/do-jail-diversion-programs-really-work/