Diversion programs seem to work but are underused
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Diversion programs seem to work but are underused

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2021 | Drug Possession

Diversion programs in New York and around the country relieve court backlogs and reduce prison populations by allowing nonviolent felony offenders to avoid jail, but they are rarely used. According to advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, prosecutors only place about 10% of felony offenders in diversion programs because they favor punishment over rehabilitation. When offenders do enter these programs, they are placed on probation, perform community service and attend substance abuse or mental health counseling sessions.

Lower recidivism

Data from Cook County, Illinois, suggest that this approach can be successful. Cook County prosecutors place about 5,000 felony offenders in diversion programs each year, and very few of them get in trouble again. A year after completing the program, only 3% of the offenders had felony arrests and only 14% had any kind of arrest. Diversion programs can also save cash-strapped counties money. Placing drug offenders in diversion programs instead of sending them to jail saves Cook County taxpayers about $1.5 million each year. Offenders in Cook County do not pay to participate in diversion programs, and a guilty plea is not required.

Diversion programs in New York

The Division of Criminal Justice Services funds diversion programs for nonviolent felony offenders in New York. In many parts of the state, prosecutors work with drug courts to find suitable candidates for diversion. Interim supervision lasting a year is sometimes ordered when there are questions about an offender’s suitability for one of these programs, and probationers who violate the conditions of their probation may also be candidates for diversion. The programs in New York emphasize strict supervision, and offenders will usually have to wear electronic monitoring devices at all times.

Diversion programs in New York

Experienced criminal law attorneys may encourage prosecutors to consider diversion programs by reminding them that rehabilitation and protecting the public should be their primary goals. If you are accused of committing a nonviolent felony and you have not been in trouble with the law before, an attorney could argue vigorously that sending you to jail would not be in the state’s best interest and you should be allowed to enter a diversion program.