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Maricopa County’s Felony Diversion Program aims to reduce recidivism

(Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Photo)

PHOENIX — In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 1,300 individuals facing criminal prosecution in Maricopa County have been referred to the county’s new Felony Diversion Program.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced the program earlier this year to provide an alternative for those facing criminal prosecution. The program was supposed to launch in April but was pushed back to May 18 in response to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

This new program combines what was formerly known as the Drug Diversion Program and Felony Pre-Trial Intervention Program. It offers more treatment options that address specific underlying behaviors and attitudes that affect criminal behavior.

Prior to the pandemic, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel directed staff to eliminate diversion case fees that ranged from $630 to $1,200, so there would no longer be a financial requirement to avoid felony prosecution.

“We’re getting more people in the program to get people the in the program to get people the needs that they have, is it mental illness? Is it drug addiction?” Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

From the program’s beginning on May 18 through Monday, 1,312 cases were processed into the Felony Diversion Program. Prior to the creation of this program, average monthly case filings for the Drug Diversion Program and FPIP combined was 314.

Diversion programs aim to minimize recidivism by reducing a person’s contact with the criminal justice system, increasing connections to appropriate community-based services, holding individuals accountable and, when applicable, provides timely financial restoration to the victim.

“I have encouraged all of our prosecutors to look at diversion as an option so we can treat the offender and not just the offense,” Adel said.

For offenders who successfully complete the Felony Diversion Program, the Deputy County Attorney will file a motion to dismiss the charges with prejudice.  If unsuccessful, the office will reinstate prosecution.

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