Pretrial diversion is designed to alleviate crowded courts and jails, and help low-risk defendants avoid the damaging consequences that come with a criminal record. But an investigation by The New York Times found that diversion programs vary widely from state to state and that second chances are often only granted to those who can afford the costs that come with them.
What was stated as a money-saving reform has, in many cities, morphed into a revenue-generator. The Times surveyed defense attorneys across the country about diversion programs and almost 200 responded. Two thirds of them said fees were a barrier to their clients. There’s little quantifiable data on the fees, success rates or recidivism because prosecutors are not required to report on the programs and the pre-trial agreements are not always filed in court.