A new court diversion program has been announced by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which provides non-violent felony offenders a ‘Second Chance.’ This new court to be implemented is a diversion program that allows the non-violent felony offenders to avoid felony convictions by successfully completing an intensive alternative prosecution program, which was made to give younger first-time offenders a second chance to change and do better in life. Furthermore, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Deferred Prosecution Program is also designed to be implemented among adult offenders who are first-time offenders of a specific non-violent felony offense, with no previous felony charges.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez states that “It is clear that there are far too many cases in the criminal justice system and I think that prosecutors can play an important role in implementing new alternative sentencing measures that not only bring just results but also provide non-violent offenders with a second chance.”
The new diversion program is known to be the first of its kind to be implemented by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The effectuation of the program was in March of 2011 and had diverted eligible non-violent felony offenders into an intensive 12-month pre-indictment program since then. The Deferred Prosecution Program is to be offered only to eligible offenders whose victims have consented to the program’s admission. The eligible non-violent felony offenders will only participate in the program upon voluntary registration.
Upon the successful completion of all the requirements through the 12-month-long process of the program, the felony charge of the offender will be dismissed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Below is the list of several requirements needed for the program:
- Defendant should either be employed or complete a 96-hour community service
- Defendant shall make restitution to the victim or property owner for damage caused, as appropriate
- Defendant must not be in possession of drugs, firearms, or weapons upon arrest and for the duration of the program
- Defendant must attend GED classes if without a high school diploma
- Drug and Alcohol treatment shall also be provided for offenders who deal with alcohol and substance abuse
- Defendant must attend all court dates and court-ordered appointments
Once accepted into the Deferred Prosecution program, the defendant would be screened by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Adult Probation Pre-Trial Services, and the Treatment Alternatives for Special Clients (TASC). Upon the end of the pre-evaluation, the case is given a 90-day status date to monitor the offender’s progress. Additionally, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has the sole discretion of determining the participants eligible for the program. Offenders who have been charged with a violent crime such as those that involve bodily harm, possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon, and sexual conduct are all considered disqualified and ineligible for the program, and would, therefore, face the courtroom with criminal charges. Non-violent crimes, including retail theft, theft, specified narcotics charges, forgery, and burglary, are among the several felony charges accepted in the program.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claims that “this program is not designed to let anyone off the hook, but rather to hold the offender accountable with mandatory participation in intensive alternative court services programming.” She further states that “if the defendant is willing to acknowledge their crime and successfully complete the terms of our Deferred Prosecution Program, they can avoid the permanent consequences and stigma of a felony conviction.”
The Deferred Prosecution Program truly gives the offender a second chance; however, if the defendant violates any conditions of the program or fails to complete the program within the specified time-frame, the defendant and his/her case will proceed to a felony courtroom. They will be prosecuted as one with a criminal case. Moreover, the program is made and implemented in collaboration with the Chief Judge Timothy Evans, the assistance of the Presiding Judge Paul Biebel, and the partnership with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, the Cook County Pre-Trial Services, and the Treatment Alternatives for Special Clients.
Cases assigned by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to the Deferred Prosecution Program are being prosecuted and conducted at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, during a special court call every Wednesday, at 13:30.
Updated: July 27, 2020