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Posted on: June 24, 2020

Record Numbers for New Felony Diversion Program Provides Alternative to Prosecution

County Attorney Allister Adel

Phoenix, Arizona – In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, more than 1,300 individuals facing criminal prosecution in Maricopa County have been referred to the county’s new Felony Diversion Program, allowing people to receive treatment in place of prosecution.

Earlier this year, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced the new Felony Diversion Program to provide an alternative for those facing criminal prosecution. The initial launch date of the program was April of 2020 but was pushed back to May 18 in response to COVID-19 stay at home orders.

This new program combines what was formerly known as the Drug Diversion Program and Felony Pre-Trial Intervention Program (FPIP); and offers a more robust treatment option that addresses the specific underlying behaviors and attitudes that affect criminal behavior.

Prior to the pandemic, County Attorney Allister Adel directed staff to eliminate diversion case fees that ranged from $630 - $1200, so there would no longer be a financial requirement to avoid felony prosecution. Additional improvements to the program include a partnership with a new behavioral health provider to deliver diversion program services. Diversion cases previously sent to TASC are now being be administered by SAGE Counseling, Inc.

From May 18 to June 22, 1312 cases were processed into the new Felony Diversion Program. Prior to the creation of this program, average monthly case filings for the Drug Diversion and FPIP programs combined was just 314. Many of these new diversion participants were individuals whose cases had lingered in the system, thus providing closure for many with outstanding criminal issues.

“If we are to make our community safer, we must look at the offender and not just the offense. The new program allows us to respond more effectively to the needs of adult offenders, by using research-based programming to address specific individual needs,” states County Attorney Allister Adel. “SAGE Counseling was a partner every step of the way as we navigated the launch of this program in the midst of COVID-19 and I appreciate everything they did to ensure a smooth transition.”

“This new endeavor is a high-level, individualized, accountable, and assessment-driven program that is one of a kind in this community,” stated Steve Grams, SAGE Counseling Executive Director. “As recommended by leaders in the field of offender treatment, this program has focused, structured counseling groups and we understand the importance of skill development in the areas of cognitive self-change, conflict resolution, anger management, positive coping, positive self-talk, refusal skills, stress management, and lifestyle balance.”

Diversion programs reduce recidivism by reducing a person’s contact with the criminal justice system, increasing connections to appropriate community-based services, holding individuals accountable, and when applicable, provides timely financial restoration to the victim.

Felony Diversion Program participants are now assessed and placed in one of six treatment tracks offered by SAGE Counseling, Inc.:

  • TRACK ONE: for LOW risk offenders with a moderate to high substance abuse criminogenic need
  • TRACK TWO: for LOW risk offenders with a moderate to high substance abuse criminogenic need but designed for those who have had success in past substance abuse education/treatment, but have returned to substance use
  • TRACK THREE: for MODERATE risk offenders with a moderate to high substance abuse criminogenic need
  • TRACK FOUR: for HIGH to VERY HIGH risk offenders with a moderate to high substance abuse criminogenic need
  • TRACK FIVE: for LOW risk offenders with low to high criminogenic needs in all other domains except substance abuse
  • TRACK SIX: for MODERATE TO VERY HIGH risk offenders with low to high criminogenic needs in all other domains except substance abuse

For offenders who successfully complete the Felony Diversion Program, the Deputy County Attorney will file a motion to dismiss the charges with prejudice. If unsuccessful, the office will reinstate prosecution.

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