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Maricopa County diversion program eliminates fee for offenders

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel says the county hopes to keep people out of prison with changes to its drug diversion program.

“They way that the program worked in the past was that the defendant offender was charged $630 … just to participate in the program,” Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Thursday.

“The way it’s going to work now is that we’re eliminating that fee, that barrier to participate in diversion.”

The fee to enter the voluntary program is now absorbed by the attorney’s office.

In April, the drug program will merge with another to create a new felony diversion program, which includes those suspected or charged with possession of controlled substances and other eligible nonviolent crimes.

All participants will be assessed with evidence-based curriculum to decide on the best treatment path for them.

The cost of the treatment will be charged to the offender on a sliding scale based on their financial status, Adel said.

“We want to start with looking at the offender, not the offense on these low-level, first-time offenders because we want to make sure we are getting them the treatment and the community-based resources they need,” she said.

Adel said the aim of the program is to reduce recidivism by getting people help so they don’t commit further crimes.

“We want these people back and working, contributing to society, paying their taxes,” she said.

Adel said if participants fail to complete treatment, prosecution against them is reinstated.

If participants do commit another crime, they could face prison time, she said.

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