Established under Sections 12 and 13 of Chapter 12 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office (NWDA) administers criminal law and defends civil actions brought against the Commonwealth in accordance with Section 6 of Chapter 258 of the General Laws. NWDA serves Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the town of Athol from four district courts (in Northampton, Belchertown, Greenfield, and Orange), a juvenile court (in Hadley), and two superior courts (in Northampton and Greenfield). NWDA also operates two administrative offices, in Northampton and Greenfield. NWDA’s state appropriations for fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017 were $6,001,554, $6,090,967, and $6,406,486, respectively. NWDA operates many programs to serve its communities; our audit reviewed the Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP) and the Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP). These programs are described below.
The JDP offers an alternative to formal prosecution in the juvenile court to certain juvenile offenders between the ages of 7 and 18. The JDP is designed to prevent participating youths from having a criminal record. Juveniles are referred to the JDP by local police officers, schools, court magistrates, probation officers, and sometimes defense lawyers. To successfully complete the program, participants must agree to, and comply with, a contract with specific deliverables. Some examples of contract deliverables are community service, restitution, counseling, essays regarding the effect of participants’ actions, compliance with home and school rules, educational programs, letters of apology, and other restorative practices to help participants understand the effects of their actions. A JDP specialist monitors the juvenile’s progress by reviewing submitted documentation and keeping in contact with third-party service providers, school resource officers, parents or guardians, and NWDA’s Juvenile Court Delinquency Prevention Unit to ensure that all deliverables are feasible and adjustments to deliverables are made as needed. The JDP is discretionary, was not required or governed by statute during the audit period, and does not receive separate funding.
During our audit period, 198 (83%) of the program’s 239 participants successfully completed all the program’s requirements.
The VWAP, in accordance with Section 5 of Chapter 258B of the General Laws (see Appendix), provides information to victims and witnesses of crime about the court process and their rights. Section 5 of Chapter 258B of the General Laws specifically states that the following services are to be provided if requested by a victim or witness: court appearance notification; information related to witness fees, victim compensation, and restitution; escort and transportation; case process notification; employer intercession; expedited return of property; protection; family support, including care of children and other dependents; waiting facilities; and social service referrals. A victim witness advocate is present in court during arraignments to identify any victims and/or witnesses. The advocates continue their contact with victims and/or witnesses throughout the court process in person or by letter, email, or phone to ensure that the victims and/or witnesses receive proper notification of court events, support, and/or services to which they are entitled.
|Date published:||November 29, 2018|