Probe Finds Flaws, Fees in Court Diversion Programs

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Diversion programs that gained popularity in the 1970s are now experiencing a resurgence, as many states respond to tough-on-crime policies by reducing nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors. Run by courts, prosecutors and sometimes law enforcement, the programs channel offenders into services meant to address the root causes of their conduct, such as substance abuse or mental illness, allowing them to avoid conviction. Intervening before a case goes to court improves job prospects by keeping incidents from showing up on background checks.

An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found many instances in which programs administered by CorrectiveSolutions, a for-profit company dogged for years by consumer rights litigation, did not hew to best practices. Interviews, documents and court records paint a picture of a company pushing hard to build its diversion brand while its embattled legacy business – running bad check restitution programs for prosecutors – was faltering.  Funded entirely by offenders, diversion programs layered on extra fees for drug tests, class rescheduling, payment plans, late payments, underpayments and even overpayments. The panoply of community services CorrectiveSolutions promised to participants did not always materialize. In some jurisdictions, the company failed to honor its pledge to assess offenders’ economic status and dole out assistance from indigent fund accounts it manages for prosecutors. In farming out the program, some prosecutors did not monitor basic results, while others diverted cases that likely would not have been provable in court. Although CorrectiveSolutions claims its programs reduce recidivism, a top executive conceded that it never has tracked that metric.

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