The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Adult Diversion Programs: A Better Way

W. Scott Cole

Posted on August 4, 2019 23:50

1 user

The war on drugs is directly responsible for the United States putting more of its citizens in prison than any country in the world, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population. We lost that war decades ago, yet the federal and state governments still enforce draconian laws that do no more than put people in prison, where they receive little or no treatment for their problem.

Having a felony conviction can ruin a life, just like a drug addiction. However, a criminal record is much harder to overcome. Coming out of prison, the stress of finding a job and a place to live can be insurmountable, especially when there is little or no support for the newly released ex-felon. Often, this stress drives a person who is determined to remake his or her life back to drugs.

It should be possible to circumvent that stress, save a person the scarlet letter of a felony record, and help them find the way back to the life they had before their arrest. Adult diversion programs may be an answer; and it could, as a byproduct, lower prison populations, save lives, and keep families together.

We know that juvenile diversion programs work. Through intervention, treatment, and showing minors a better way to live, many young people are saved from prison. They manage to stay out of the criminal justice system, becoming responsible and productive adults. Yet somehow, when a youth reaches the magic age of 18, such help is no longer available. The underlying reasons that result in arrest do not change; it is the way the system treats them that changes.

It stands to reason that if a diversion program works for juveniles, it should work for adults as well. So why are there almost no such programs?

Pennington County in South Dakota decided to create a program for adults. It is wildly successful and could be a model for adult diversion programs everywhere.

There is no upper limit to the age of participants. Perhaps most importantly, the program is not a “one size fits all” program. The prosecutor, defense attorney, and even the arresting officer can make recommendations for entry to the program. Successful completion can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, with the end result being no record anywhere of the arrest and no conviction being recorded, therefore no criminal record.

After being accepted into the program, participants go through a one to three hour intake process, during which they are helped to discover what it is they are dealing with that made them turn to drugs, what resources and support they have, and what kind of help they need.

They start out by writing a letter explaining the crime they committed, why they did it, and how a criminal conviction could impact their life. This helps them focus on the underlying problems they have and forces them to think of the possible consequences of their actions. If they fail in the program, the letter also serves as a confession in court, giving them further incentive to succeed. Participants also have to stay out of trouble for a year.

To date, 900 people have been admitted to the program and 80% have completed it. Of those who finished, 84% have not been rearrested.

This could be the way to combat drug addiction. It seems worth trying.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on August 4, 2019 23:50

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Deseret News
1

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announce a new criminal justice...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest