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Diversion program is underutilized by the Justice Department

Each year, the federal government has budget issues to work through. A recent report shows that there is one area in which the government is choosing to spend millions of dollars to send people to prison when those people could have been sentenced to diversion programs.

The Justice Department's diversion programs are meant for low-risk offenders who are facing charges for low-level nonviolent crimes. These programs are often thought of as being a fair alternative to having to serve time in prison, especially for drug-related crimes when there isn't a real threat to public safety.

Of the 94 federal judicial districts, around half had no more than five successful participants in pretrial diversion programs from 2012 to 2014. In fact, 78 of the courts don't even offer diversion programs. The inspector general's office noted that there were 7,106 people who could have been candidates for diversion programs over a three-year period. Of those, only 1,520 successfully completed the program.

The Justice Department agrees that diversion programs could have been used more often. It did note that the number of these programs has increased significantly in recent years.

Pretrial diversion programs, such as drug court, offer defendants a chance to complete a program in exchange for the charges against them to be dropped. One of these programs is drug court, which includes drug treatment programs. These programs help to reduce incarceration and prosecution costs. They also help to reduce recidivism.

People who are facing criminal charges should seek out answers about pretrial diversion programs. These programs can give people the help they need to overcome the issues that led to the criminal activity.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Report: Justice Dept. poorly tracks its diversion programs," Eric Tucker, July 14, 2016

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