A California firm called American Corrective Counseling Services has turned bad checks into a thriving business, reports ProPublica.org. The company has deals to run “diversion” programs on behalf of some 150 county district attorneys. In return, the DAs get a cut of the fees. The company sends letters to people who have bounced checks threatening possible prosecution. Prosecutors have cashed in. Over the past four years, Los Angeles County received $1 million; Illinois’ Cook County collected more than $160,000 in a year; Florida's Miami-Dade County got $375,000 in a little over 3 years.
Prosecutors call the program a win-win. Like traffic school, it allows them to divert defendants away from court into educational classes after a finding of probable cause that they have committed a criminal act. Merchants get repaid about a third of the time; DAs free up resources to handle serious crimes and get a modest budget boost. “This particular function is one that we can legally outsource to a company experienced in doing this,” said Los Angeles County prosecutor Sharon Matsumoto. “With all the violent crime in Los Angeles County, we have to concentrate on our core mission.”