A diversion program also referred to as a pre-trial diversion program or pre-trial intervention program, is a form of sentencing in the criminal justice system. The criminal offender is enrolled in a rehabilitation program to help remedy the behavior that led to his arrest. It allows an offender to avoid conviction and criminal records. The police department, Court, district attorney’s office, and other outside agencies usually run this program. The program requires that the offender completes the following requirements; education geared towards preventing future offenses, restitution to victims of that offense committed, community service completion, and avoiding situations that could lead the offender to commit similar offenses in the future. Therefore, a diversion program is one way in which an offender can be dealt with in the Magistrates court. This article gives you the merits and demerits of diversion programs.
Pros of diversion programs
1. They ease caseloads in the court systems: Diversion programs allow the prosecutor to drop charges that they would rather have presented before the Court as long as the offender obeys the terms and conditions in the agreed contact they have. Therefore reduces the number of cases before the court system and eases caseloads in the court system.
2. They emphasize positive and constructive character correction on the offender: A previous study showed that over 84% of successful diversion participants were not subsequently charged with committing a crime up to 4 years of completing a diversion program. Diversion programs thus work towards constructive character correction of the offender.
3. Victims of the offense get financial restitution for their loss: In the terms and conditions of the contract between the prosecutor and offender, the offender may be required to pay the victim a certain amount of money due to damages caused. Therefore brings financial relief to the victim.
4. It is a cost-effective method: Diversion programs usually hold offenders accountable for their crimes outside the costly court system, thus making it cost-effective.
5. It makes it faster for offenders to rehabilitate faster and build better characters after that: Upon completion and satisfaction of the terms and conditions presented by the prosecutor, the offender can lead a normal life and won’t necessarily have a track criminal record.
6. Diversion programs allow different ways for offenders to be held fully accountable for their actions, without necessarily criticizing them: Offenders only have to obey the terms and conditions in the contract. It is presented to them by the prosecutor without facing trial in Court, leading to victimization and discrimination.
7. Diversion programs reduce mass incarceration: The ease in caseloads in Court systems reduces the number of people convicted by the Court in prisons, thus reducing mass incarceration.
8. Diversion programs work for cases that collaborate between the law, offenders, and victims: Offenders can collaborate with the victim and prosecutors to decide how to repair the harm they may have caused during the act of offense. It helps people be aware of the law, making them less likely to commit other offenses in the future.
9. The accused often acknowledges responsibility for the offense: Offenders can therefore make amends with the victims in a meaningful way through written or in-person apologies. It also contributes to a great percentage in preventing future criminal behavior.
10. They can address the offense’s impact on the victims: Victims are allowed to voice out their views and participate in the restorative justice process. It also helps in the healing process for victims.
Cons of diversion programs
1. The offender is forced to sign a written confession by the prosecutor: This written confession shows that the offender indeed committed the offense. The written confession originally signed by the offender can thus be used as proof that he or she is guilty of having committed the offense. In case the offender violates the terms and conditions of the contract, the original prosecution will be resumed in Court.
2. The prosecutor decides whether or not the diversion contract has been satisfied: In some cases, when the prosecutor is biased or corrupt, they may decide that the contact has not been satisfied. It allows the prosecutor to present the matter before Court to prove that the offender is guilty of the offense.
3. The program only applies to the offender: Offenders are forced to sign a written confession that shows that they committed the offense.
4. Diversion programs usually end within 12 months: This period may not be enough for offenders with more serious crimes to reform. It may also be unfair for offenders with petty crimes.
5. The diversion program conditions can be agreed upon by both parties then altered by the magistrate at the diversion hearing: If a prosecutor determines that the contract terms and conditions have not been satisfied, they present the case before the magistrate for hearing. The magistrate can alter the conditions set in the contract that both parties had previously agreed on.
6. It is an ineffective way of correction, especially to someone who did not commit the offense: People who were wrongfully arrested (they did not commit the crime) may be disadvantaged since they are forced to sign the written confession. It proves they committed the offense even though they did not.
7. It puts constitutional freedom at risk: Diversion programs have volunteers who perform their duties on diversion boards. They may fail to understand the constitutional implications that typically come with diversion. Therefore, it puts constitutional freedom at risk.
8. Justice may not be fully served in the view of the victims: Victims usually focus more on the punishment given to the offender rather than reimbursement. Therefore, it is clear that the victim may find a diversion program an ineffective punishment method even though the offender gets supervised community safety in the program.
9. The process can be more expensive in some cases because offenders will have to be reprocessed and incarcerated in some cases.
10. Diversion programs may be unsuccessful: When this happens, people who may not have committed the crime suffer more, they are victimized, and thus this system loses its credibility.