LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – With the ever increasing court calendars, jail population and decreased staffing levels, it has become necessary for the District Attorney’s Office to seek solutions to these problems.
District Attorney Don Anderson said his office has contracted with Pacific Educational Services to provide educational programs to people in Lake County that face low level misdemeanors charges.
If a person is eligible, they will be offered the opportunity to complete a one day class, said Anderson.
The defendant has 10 days to sign up for the program, Anderson said. If the defendant successfully completes the program and pays restitution to the victim, no criminal charges will be filed or if the charges have previously been filed they will be dismissed.
The program is only for low level misdemeanors and for defendants not having a significant criminal history, and not for hardened criminals, he said.
“These diversion programs are very powerful in the sense that it gives people a clear second chance, which is huge in terms of employment records, licensing and so forth,” Anderson said.
The classes have proven to be very useful in preventing further crime, by teaching life skills, anger management and alcohol and drug abuse, he said. “People completing the class learn something about themselves and the crime.”
It is anticipated that those completing the program will experience a significant reduction of repeat offenses. In other jurisdictions the recidivism rate is averaging 18 percent less than those not taking the program, according to Anderson.
Anderson said there are no costs to the county for these programs; the defendant has to pay $250 for pre-filing programs or $285 for post filing programs. The costs of the diversion program is generally less than the fine a court would impose on the defendant if he is convicted of the offense.
It is anticipated that the sheriff, courts and District Attorney’s Office will have significant cost savings by having to process less people through the system, Anderson said.
He added, “We will be sending some people to class rather than court, so that we can concentrate our efforts on serious crimes.”