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Some prosecutors promote diversion programs as an alternative to incarceration.

To shield people from the negative impacts of criminal conviction, prosecutors can divert individuals away from formal criminal justice system involvement to community-based services to address their needs—such as drug use, mental health issues, or housing instability—which may help reduce the likelihood of future arrest or incarceration.See Michael Rempel, Melissa Labriola, Priscilla Hunt, et al., NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs (New York: Center for Court Innovation, 2017). Like law enforcement-assisted diversion, prosecutor-led diversion programs provide some individuals accused of crimes with alternatives to traditional case processing, sometimes in lieu of formal prosecution or sentencing. While program components and design vary—and successful completion may result in either no charges, dismissal of charges, or expungement—they typically require some combination of education, therapy, treatment, and/or community service.See Michael Rempel, Melissa Labriola, Priscilla Hunt, et al., NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs (New York: Center for Court Innovation, 2017). 

Two Texas district attorneys—Kim Ogg of Harris County and Mark Gonzalez of Nueces County—implemented programs to divert or dismiss some cases for misdemeanor marijuana possession.For information on the Harris County program, see Office of the District Attorney, Harris County, Texas, “Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program,”Meagan Flynn, “DA Ogg, Police Leaders Announce Landmark Marijuana Diversion Program,” Houston Press, February 16, 2017; and Megan Flynn, “Not Having $150 ‘No. 1 Reason’ Nearly 300 Have Failed Marijuana Diversion Program,” Houston Press, August 1, 2017For information on the Nueces County program, see Michael Barajas, “Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos,’” Texas Observer, November 6, 2017.  The programs aren’t without problems, however; Ogg’s has an 18 percent failure rate because many people can’t afford the $150 fee while Gonzalez’s requires payment of a $250 fine, which may still be out of reach for some but has netted the county $300,000 in revenue since its inception.Flynn, “Nearly 300 Have Failed Diversion” (2017); and Priscilla Torres, “Marijuana Fines Collected in Nueces County Total More Than $300,000,” KRIS-TV, updated July 20, 2017. A briefing paper issued by Fair and Just Prosecution in August entitled Promising Practices in Prosecutor-Led Diversion provides best practices and models for a variety of both pre- and post-disposition programs that include components like treatment, restorative justice, and probation.Fair and Just Prosecution, Issues at a Glance: Promising Practices in Prosecutor-Led Diversion (Los Angeles: Fair and Just Prosecution, 2017).