- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for In Response to Audit, Northwestern DA’s Office Aims to Expand Data Collection for Juvenile Diversion Program
Mike Wessler, Communications Director
Boston — The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office (NWDA) reports that it will explore opportunities to collect data related to its Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP) to help it better assess the program’s impact in reducing future criminal offenses by participants. The commitment was made in response to an audit released today by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump. The audit examined activities of the office from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.
In the audit, Bump notes that NWDA currently collects data from the JDP, such as participants’ progress and confirming the completion of agreed-upon program requirements. However, she encouraged the office to also collect data or conduct a post-completion outcome evaluation to determine the program’s effectiveness and whether any changes to it are necessary.
“The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office already collects important data to monitor participant compliance with and completion of the requirements of its Juvenile Diversion Program. I’m encouraged that it recognizes the value of also collecting and assessing long-term participant data to better evaluate the program’s success and develop needed improvements. We all benefit when young people are able to stay out of the criminal justice system; the collection of this data will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal,” Bump said of the audit.
The audit also found that NWDA provides required assistance to participants in its Victim Witness Assistance Program.
The Juvenile Diversion Program at NWDA offers an alternative to formal prosecution in juvenile courts to certain offenders who are between the ages of 7 and 18. It is designed to prevent participants 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, such as community service, restitution, counseling, educational programs, and letters of apology. NWDA does not receive separate funding for the program. During the audit period, 83 percent of program participants successfully completed all the program’s requirements.
NWDA serves Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the town of Athol from four district courts, a juvenile court, and two superior courts. It administers criminal law and defends civil actions brought against the Commonwealth. In fiscal year 2017, it received state appropriations of $6.4 million.