In Texas, 20-30% of offenders released from prison go right back there within three years of release. This suggests that, in many cases, traditional prosecution and sentencing is ineffective in preventing future offenses.
Why does this happen?
One of the biggest reasons is that once an individual has spent time in prison, obtaining gainful employment or a college education is much more difficult. In many cases, former offenders may turn back to illegal activities because they find that they are otherwise unable to support themselves.
This can lead to a vicious cycle of repeat offenses, bringing harm to the victims of these crimes, and placing a substantial burden on the criminal justice system.
In contrast, research has shown that diversion programs, which seek to rehabilitate first-time offenders, benefit just about everyone – offenders, the victims of crime, the community, and the criminal justice system. If you are facing criminal charges, you should absolutely ask your attorney whether diversion may be an option for your case.
Let’s break down the many different ways diversion benefits Texans from all walks of life.
How Diversion Programs Benefit Texas Victims
Diversion programs often require offenders to make some kind of restitution to the victim(s) of their crime. This can help to compensate them for losses resulting from the crime, and it can bring victims closure.
Benefits for victims may include:
- Financial restitution
- A written or in-person apology from the offender
- The opportunity to voice their views of the offense, and learn more about the circumstances of the offense
How Texas Diversion Programs Benefit Offenders
Diversion programs seek to rehabilitate first-time offenders and address any underlying circumstantial, mental, or emotional issues that may have contributed to their criminal activity, or in the case of drug crimes, substance abuse.
Benefits for offenders may include:
- Avoiding a criminal conviction
- Making amends for their offenses in a meaningful way, which may help offenders understand the true impact of their actions
- Mental health screening to address any underlying conditions that may have contributed to the decision to commit the offense
- Substance abuse screening, treatment, and counseling
- Contributing positively to the community through community service
- The ability to expunge their record if they complete the program
Hot Diversion Programs Benefit Communities in Texas
Diversion programs benefit the community in numerous ways. Benefits for the community may include:
- Allowing volunteers from the community to participate in diversion programs
- Work in the form of mandatory community service hours from offenders
- Diversion programs are highly effective in preventing repeat offenses, decreasing crime rates in the community
- Far more cost-effective than traditional prosecution and sentencing, which decreases the burden on taxpayers
Benefits for the Texas Criminal Justice System
Criminal justice systems nationwide are overburdened with criminal cases, many of which are for non-violent or relatively minor offenses. This means that prosecutors and public defenders are overburdened with unreasonable caseloads, and that the prison system is overcrowded.
Moreover, because recidivism is more likely when offenders are incarcerated, traditional prosecution further contributes to this problem by creating repeat offenders.
Therefore, diversion programs directly benefit the criminal justice system by:
- Decreasing the burden on the overcrowded courts and prison system, both by re-routing offenders entering diversion, and by preventing repeat offenses
- Diverting minor offenses, which allows prosecutors to focus on significant crimes
- Providing a cost-effective alternative to punishment-based sentences, alleviating budget concerns
So, there you have it. With criminal diversion programs, the question isn’t so much “who do they benefit?” but rather, “Who doesn’t benefit?” Or maybe, “Why aren’t we doing more of these?
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.