ALAMOSE– SB22-010, known as “pretrial diversion for people with behavioral health” and sponsored by Senator Cleave Simpson, Senator Pete Lee and Representatives Benavides and Amabile, was signed into law this week by Governor Polis . The new legislation expands diversion programs that will divert individuals from the criminal justice system to treatment programs.
The “diversion program,” as it is known in the Valley, creates an opportunity for a defendant, usually charged with their first offense of committing a low-level crime, to be diverted from the criminal justice system before being charged. go to trial.
The program was created to serve both the defendant who committed a crime and the victim of the crime that was committed against them. If the defendant successfully completes the terms of the agreement they established with the diversion program, they will be spared the consequences that result from having a record with the criminal justice system, including the impact that this record may have on his future. Also, being spared these consequences will hopefully reduce the likelihood of them committing further crimes in the future.
For the victim, the program can be helpful in encouraging ‘restoration’ – the possibility of stabilizing their life after victimization – and, where possible, receiving restitution from the accused.
The Alamosa program was created in 2019 by Megan Martinez, director of diversion for the DA’s office. Since its inception, it has enjoyed great success. Martinez reports that she averages between 30 and 50 clients in her program per quarter or around 150 to 200 clients per year.
Based on data she collected for 2020, Martinez reports a 2% recidivism rate among those who successfully completed the terms of their agreement. In other words, out of 200 clients she managed on her file, only 4 went on to commit additional crimes.
But Martinez was clear about what Diversion is and isn’t.
“Right now, in the public eye,” she says, “the diversion is lumped together with the dismissals and adjournment offers made by attorneys in the DA’s office. The diversion isn’t the same – not at all. Diversion clients try to fix themselves and the community in which they live. The validity of the program has been questioned because of this misunderstanding. It must be understood that the integrity of the program is stronger than it has ever been. I started it in 2019 and its operation has not changed.
Martinez is also clear that the diversion program is anything but a “get out of jail free” card. She says diversion is ‘more difficult’ than going to court because the terms are very specific about what clients have to do – whether it’s going to class, doing community service General or to pay compensation to the victim. Failure to comply with all terms of the agreement will result in the client’s action in court.
“The client must want to change,” she says. “They have to take responsibility for what they’ve done to the victim and to the community where they live, and they have to want to…repair…even if it’s a lot more complex than just ‘reparation’.
According to Martinez, Diversion is also better for victims. “Victims have more of a say in what happens than they have in a court case going through the court system. If the victim wants it, [we] arrange a discussion with the victim and the client who committed the crime against them. And if there is restitution to be paid, it usually happens faster with the diversion program.
Martinez is also very clear about which cases qualify for the diversion program. “I don’t get involved in major crimes or serious crimes cases. I only take clients who have committed crimes – such as criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, shoplifting, underage drinking, or a DUI where the alcohol level is very low.
She has not committed any drug-related offenses to date.
Martinez says the legislation just signed into law will have a “big impact” because it will open up the possibility of accessing state and federal funding to pay for treatment for people with behavioral health issues and disorders. But Martinez is clear that the crime committed by the person must be directly related to the problem or disorder diagnosed in the person.
When asked if the diversion is appropriate in these cases, Martinez – who takes a relatively “hard-line” approach to his program – was clear in his response. “It’s very appropriate for a population – as long as they’ve been screened and are managed closely and effectively by case managers. And that’s very appropriate in an area that has such a high poverty rate, like we do in the valley.
In the past, Martinez has accepted clients into his program and – when that client discloses a behavioral health issue to him on his own or the police report suggests a behavioral health issue was involved – referred the client to behavioral health service providers in the area. But the challenge was the client’s ability to pay for the behavioral health services they would receive.
“Insurance companies don’t pay for anger management, say, in the case of someone who has committed domestic violence. And many people don’t have the money to pay for the treatment themselves.
The adoption of this law will allow this treatment to become a reality.
Martinez is very clear about the single underlying determinant that is clearly linked to the success of her program. “This is initiated by the defendant. He or she must really want to change. I don’t keep clients. They have to go to school, do their community service, pay restitution, whatever is involved. If they don’t do what they agreed to do, they go to court. They must want to change. »