With state courts facing record-breaking caseloads and tightening budgets, jurisdictions around the country have begun to seek alternatives to traditional case processing as early as possible in the criminal justice process. One existing alternative is prosecutor-led diversion, a model which allows jurisdictions to reroute low-level offenders from traditional case-processing at the front-end of the justice process, in many cases prior to formal charge or arraignment. Although prosecutor-led diversion programs (PDPs) have been a part of the American legal landscape for several decades, there is little to no descriptive literature of the model and only sporadic impact evaluations of specific programs. In response, the Center for Court Innovation, the Rand Corporation and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys proposed a 30-month national, multi-method study with goals to synthesize existing knowledge of PDPs through an original meta-analysis, produce a rich understanding of existing programs through in-depth case studies of programs in 11 sites nationwide, determine the national prevalence of the model and provide a portrait of program goals, target populations, and policies through a representative prosecutor survey, and test PDP effectiveness in reducing recidivism, incarceration, psychosocial problems, and costs to the society and the economy through a prospective impact evaluation of 3-4 programs.
Two formative design elements will be implemented during the first four months of the project: a systematic meta-analysis and in-depth case studies of PDPs in 11 sites nationwide. Findings from the two formative design elements informs the next two design elements: a national survey of prosecutors and a prospective process, impact, and cost-benefit evaluation of 3-4 programs, selected from the full case study sample. The project’s multi-method approach combines scope, depth, and quantitative rigor to yield a comprehensive set of findings on the state of district attorneys’ pretrial diversion programs in the U.S. Of particular importance, the design not only examines the impacts, costs, and benefits of select programs but also meets the field’s urgent need for descriptive documentation of the full range of contemporary program models.
Research on District Attorneys’ Pretrial Diversion Programs is made possible by funding from the National Institute of Justice.
Chief Social Scientist
Pretrial Diversion, multi-method study, Center for Court Innovation, National Institute of Justice, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys