- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Hampden County District Attorney Not Effectively Assessing Juvenile Diversion Program
Mike Wessler, Communications Director
Boston — State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office (HCDA) that examined the administration of its Juvenile Diversion Program and Victim Witness Assistance Program. While the audit found no deficiencies related to the Victim Witness Assistance Program, it calls on HCDA to take steps to assess whether its Juvenile Diversion Program is meeting its stated goal of decreasing the likelihood that a juvenile will commit further offenses.
The Juvenile Diversion Program is available to first-time offenders between the ages of 7 and 18 who are charged with certain crimes, including alcohol offenses, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, breaking and entering, and shoplifting. Program participants can postpone their arraignments while completing program requirements, which include signing a contract that documents terms of the program and performing community service and may include paying restitution, seeking counseling, and completing educational courses. Upon successful completion, the charges against the participant are dismissed. The program is developed at the discretion of the district attorney and is not required or governed by statute. HCDA does not receive additional funding for the program, which it estimates has an annual cost of $65,000.
“The Hampden County District Attorney’s Office should be commended for recognizing the importance of programs, such as the Juvenile Diversion Program, that aim to keep young people out of the criminal justice system. However, by failing to collect and analyze program data related to recidivism, it cannot be sure whether it is meeting the goal HCDA set for the program,“ Bump said. ”If the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office believes, like I do, that this program is a worthy investment, it should do more to assess the program’s success and provide lawmakers and citizens with data that makes that case.”
In the audit, Bump calls on the HCDA to improve its identification, collection, and evaluation of data in a number of areas, including participant recidivism. Bump notes that tracking this information will allow HCDA to better assess the effectiveness of the program, and provide a level of transparency to the Legislature and other stakeholders on its performance. The audit notes that national organizations such as Models for Change and The Urban Institute have highlighted data collection regarding recidivism as a key way of assessing the success of a juvenile diversion program.
A similar audit released earlier this year examined the Young Adult Diversion Program of the Worcester District Attorney’s-Middle District. That audit also called for improved data collection in the program.
HCDA serves 23 cities and towns in western Massachusetts and operates from five district courts. It represents the Commonwealth at bail hearings, commitment proceedings related to criminal matters, and rendition proceedings. It also assists in the investigation and prosecution of a variety of criminal activities.