Criminal offenders in Texas – and across the nation – are often released from prison only to return within several years. This fact indicates that traditional sentencing is inadequate when it comes to preventing recidivism. Once someone is convicted of a crime, it is far more difficult for him or her to obtain a job that provides an adequate living or getting a college education that much more difficult. This leaves Texas communities more vulnerable to future crimes and places a nearly insurmountable burden on our criminal justice system.
Fortunately, diversionary programs can allow some defendants to avoid a conviction – provided that they successfully complete the conditions of their program.
Benefits for Offenders
Diversionary programs are intended to help rehabilitate first-time criminal offenders and to address any underlying mental, emotional, or circumstantial issues that may have precipitated the offense – whether it be criminal activity or charges related to drugs or substance abuse. Some of the benefits for offenders are obvious, but others are more nuanced. These benefits include:
- Avoiding criminal conviction, which obviously tops the list
- Making meaningful amends to those harmed by the offense, which can be powerfully informative and moving
- Receiving mental health screenings in an effort to constructively address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the crime in the first place
- Receiving screenings, treatment, and therapy for substance abuse that may have contributed to the crime in the first place
- Having the opportunity to expunge one’s record upon program completion
Benefits for the Community
Diversion programs can also greatly benefit the communities that implement them. These benefits include:
- Receiving the community services provided by participants in the diversion programs
- Experiencing decreased crime rates – diversion programs are highly effective at decreasing recidivism
- Expending fewer costs related to sentencing first-time offenders, which decreases the taxpayers’ burden
Getting into a Diversionary Program is Up to the Discretion of the Court
If you are facing criminal charges and think you may be eligible to participate in a diversionary program, it’s vital to understand that it’s up to the court whether you can or not. For this reason, it’s critical to retain an attorney to represent you – even if you are certain that you meet the eligibility requirements. A lawyer can help ensure that you are able to get into the diversionary program available to you so that you can avoid a criminal conviction on your record.