VENTURA, Calif. – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten has announced the creation of a Misdemeanor Diversion Program for low-level misdemeanor offenders. The program is an effort to reduce recidivism by providing meaningful education and rehabilitation to appropriate individuals.
Beginning October 1, 2017, eligible offenders who choose to participate in diversion will have their criminal charges deferred while they complete rehabilitative classes and pay any restitution owed to victims. The program is based on a therapeutic concept known as cognitive behavioral therapy and addresses the individual’s particular criminal actions.
Individuals who commit specified misdemeanor crimes will be eligible for diversion only if they have never been convicted of a felony, have not previously been diverted, and have not been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past 10 years. More serious misdemeanor crimes are excluded from diversion, such as driving under the influence, domestic violence, gang-related offenses, crimes exhibiting criminal sophistication, and crimes of significant violence.
Participation in the program is voluntary for offenders. Those who choose not to participate or who fail to complete the program will face criminal charges that have been authorized by a deputy district attorney. Those who complete the diversion program and pay victim restitution, if any is owed, will not face prosecution.
“My hope is this program will provide offenders with an opportunity to address the issues that led them to offend in the first place,” said Totten. “If we can do that, we will improve the safety of our community and help offenders to change their lives for the better.”
The program is funded entirely by offenders, with neither cost nor revenue to the District Attorney’s Office or the County of Ventura. Payment plans are available and a portion of each fee will be deposited into an indigent offender fund that will be used to reduce program fees for indigent defendants who cannot afford the full fee.
The Misdemeanor Diversion Program will be administered by Pacific Educational Services, Inc., a leader in California diversion programs. The company was selected based on their proven record of success. A study conducted by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office found that while 21 percent of those who declined diversion re-offended within one year, only six percent of those who completed the Pacific Educational Services program committed a new crime in that timeframe.
The goals of the Misdemeanor Diversion Program are to achieve more positive outcomes and reduce recidivism. Similar programs currently operate in various California counties, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is the public prosecutor for the county’s 850,000 residents. The office employs approximately 280 employees including attorneys, investigators, victim advocates, and other professional support staff who strive to seek justice, ensure public safety, and protect the rights of crime victims.