- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for In Response to Audit Plymouth District Attorney Taking Steps to Improve Diversion Program
Mike Wessler, Communications Director
Boston — After an audit by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found that it had not established a process to monitor the success of its Diversion Program, the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office (PCDA) reports it is taking steps to do so. In the audit, which examined the period of January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, Bump found that while the PCDA does collect data on participants to monitor their completion of program-specific requirements, it does not use this data to track program success and determine if any changes are necessary. Bump also notes that tracking this data can help the Office make requests to the Legislature for funding for the program.
“Adequate data collection and analysis is critical for all government programs, but this is particularly true of programs that seek to keep young people out of the criminal justice system,” Bump said. “By acting on our audit recommendations, the Plymouth Country District Attorney’s Office will be able to better identify needed areas of improvement in its Diversion Program and allow it to demonstrate that effectiveness using irrefutable facts.”
In its response, which is included in the audit, PCDA indicates it has already begun to implement the audit recommendations. It has improved its process for collecting data on program participants and has developed quarterly and annual reports on program participants to identify trends in program usages and success, and to identify repeat offenders. PCDA notes in the audit report that these steps “will help in identifying specific and proper program changes that need to be made. It will also assist us in tailoring better programs and requirements for each specific court, if needed.”
The Diversion Program at PCDA is available at the discretion of Assistant District Attorneys to first-time offenders who are 23 years old or younger, charged with certain nonviolent crimes including alcohol offenses, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and shoplifting. Program participants can postpone their arraignments for 90 days while completing program requirements, which may include paying restitution, sending a letter of apology, performing community service, writing an essay, and completing an educational program. Upon successful completion, the charges against the participant are dismissed. The program is not required or governed by statute. PCDA does not receive separate funding for the program but instead uses the money the Legislature appropriates each year to fund the office’s general operations. The program has two full-time employees and operates at an annual estimated cost of $85,878.
Bump recently released similar audits that examined the juvenile diversion programs in the Bristol District Attorney’s Office, the Worcester District Attorney’s Office and the Hampden District Attorney’s Office. These audits also called for improved data collection in the programs.
PCDA serves one city and 26 towns in southeastern Massachusetts and operates from the superior and juvenile courts, as well as four 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.