Diverting cases from the criminal justice system emerged as a viable option in 1967. Currently, there are 35 pre-trial diversion programs operating in Louisiana. These include several programs without a formal staff, which are run exclusively by the District Attorney.
Support for pre-trial diversion programs is based on the belief that not every criminal violation warrants a formal courtroom prosecution. By sparing appropriately selected first time offenders the expense of trial and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, successful divertees are restored to useful citizenship. Indeed, properly structured diversion programs were hailed early on as an innovative rehabilitation tool.
The Pre-trial Diversion Program represents one of the most promising correctional treatment innovations in recent years. Adaptable both to adult and juvenile correctional populations, the concept has received increasing recognition and endorsement as a rehabilitative technique for early and youthful offenders. The technique is to be distinguished from informal diversion practices, in that pre-trial (diversion) referrals are based on:
- formalized eligibility criteria;
- required participation in manpower, counseling, job placement and educational services
- for defendants placed in the programs, and
- utilization of a real alternative to official court processing, i.e. dismissal of formal charges for successful participants
Louisiana reporting units totaled 181,388. This breaks down to an arrest rate of 7,003 per 100,000 citizens. Louisiana now has eleven adult institutions and four juvenile institutions.
Given the current drain on correctional resources, prosecutors nationwide are recognizing the need to alternatives to incarceration. Every three years, the National Assessment Program conducts a survey on behalf of the National Institute of Justice to bring to light issues that members of the law enforcement community believe are most pressing. When asked to name the areas viewed as most important for future research and evaluation, prosecutors and other groups named alternative sanctions as a top priority.
The following steps comprise the Iberville, West Baton Rouge & Pointe Coupee Parishes District Attorney's Office Pre-trial Intervention Program:
1. Transfer agency submits offense report to the District Attorney.
2. District Attorney determines if the case appears to be suitable for Pre-trial Intervention.
3. Case is forwarded to the Director of the Pre-trial Program.
4. Director schedules a screening appointment, at which time the following procedures are performed:
- Candidate is notified that this program is strictly voluntary and upon completion of the program, charges are dismissed.
- Criminal history is obtained
- Victim is contacted (if required).
- Arresting Officer is contacted (if necessary).
5. If the individual is considered a candidate for the program, he is placed on probation for up to 2 years. Conditions of probation may include community service, counseling (i.e. anger management, alcohol, drug counseling, MADD, etc.) and/or restitution.
6. Only first offense simple possession of marijuana may be eligible for P.T.D.
7. If the individual is declined, the case is returned to the District Attorney along with an explanation for being declined. Brett Stassi is responsible for the day to day operations of the 18th Judicial District Attorney's P.T.D. Program. He can be contacted at the Plaquemine Office at (225) 687-5210.
E-Mail Brett: BrettS@rickywardda.com