Overview of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office

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The Hampden County District Attorney’s Office (HCDA) was established under Sections 12 and 13 of Chapter 12 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which provide for the administration of criminal law and the defense of civil actions brought against the Commonwealth in accordance with Chapter 258 of the General Laws. HCDA serves 23 cities and towns in western Massachusetts and operates from five district courts, three of which have juvenile courts. HCDA represents the Commonwealth at bail hearings, at commitment proceedings related to criminal matters, at rendition proceedings, and during the presentation of evidence in all inquests. It also assists in the investigation of a variety of criminal activities. In addition to its legal and investigatory activities, HCDA operates several programs that provide educational services to the public and to individuals involved in the criminal justice system. The programs subject to our audit are described below.

The Juvenile Diversion Program is available to first-time offenders between the ages of 7 and 18 who are charged with certain crimes, such as alcohol offenses, assault and battery, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, larceny, shoplifting, and trespassing. Program participants can postpone their arraignments while completing the requirements of the program, which include signing a contract that documents the terms of the program and performing community service and may also include paying restitution, seeking counseling, and completing educational courses. When participants successfully complete the program requirements, the charges against them are dismissed.

The Juvenile Diversion Program has one full-time employee and one part-time employee. The Juvenile Diversion Program is discretionary, is not required or governed by statute, and does not receive separate funding. HCDA chooses to operate this program using the money the Legislature appropriates each year to fund HCDA’s overall operations. HCDA estimates the annual cost of the program at $65,000.

HCDA also operates a Victim Witness Assistance Program, which is governed by Chapter 258B of the General Laws. According to HCDA’s website,

The Victim Witness Unit of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office serves victims and witnesses of crime in accordance with the entitlements and services mandated by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights (M.G.L. c. 258 B).

The appendix of this report contains detailed descriptions of these entitlements and services. The Victim Witness Assistance Program has 25 full-time advocates, 1 part-time advocate, and 1 full-time director.

Date published: September 13, 2018

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