Specialized initiative resolves cases 70% faster and matches young offenders with services
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and Judge David Goodsell were joined by current and former Assistant District Attorneys, court staff and community outreach groups to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Nassau County District Attorney’s Adolescent Diversion Program on March 1.
“I’m incredibly proud of this program because it makes our communities safer and helps kids turn their lives around and become productive, law-abiding citizens,” DA Singas said. “I’m grateful for outstanding collaboration between our partners in the courts, the Probation Department, and the community organizations and service providers who have helped make ADP a success.”
In January 2012 then-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman called for a new approach to adjudicate 16 and 17 year-old defendants and Nassau County volunteered to host and develop a pilot Adolescent Diversion Program. NCDA relied on extensive research and data to ensure that this new program would identify the underlying drivers of crime, match defendants with the appropriate resources and minimize the interaction of the adolescent defendants with the court system.
As a result, Nassau County’s Adolescent Diversion Program focuses on the offender more than the offense and has a near 100% participation rate for non-violent offenders.
The goal of Adolescent Diversion is to reduce convictions and recidivism rates among this vulnerable age group.
In Nassau County, all 16 and 17- year old respondents who are facing non-violent criminal charges in Nassau County are immediately referred to ADP. They are then conditionally released to the Department of Probation where the evidence-based Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI) is performed to determine the youth’s risk of recidivism, and to identify which services will best address the underlying causes that led to the child to offend.
Studies show that adolescents with more contact with the criminal justice system are more likely to reoffend, so ADP seeks to minimize court appearances and the use of incarceration and parole. Some offenders receive outright case dismissals, while the remaining adolescents – who face one or more program requirement – are rapidly moved through their criminal justice experience.
The length of ADP program completion is approximately one month for a violation, two months for a misdemeanor and four months for a felony, benefitting an overburdened court system. The state Department of Criminal Justice Services noted that ADP achieved a 70 percent reduction in the median length of prosecution from arraignment to disposition.
Approximately 700 cases are heard every year. In 2016, 696 cases were referred to ADP and none of the adolescents who had a case that was resolved at the end of the year were sentenced to jail or probation. Out of 417 cases completed in ADP in 2016, approximately eighty-four percent were misdemeanors, approximately fourteen percent contained a top count that was a felony, and approximately three percent were violation-level offenses.
If the teen has committed a minor offense and is assessed to be little or no risk to the community, the case may be dismissed to avoid further penetration into the criminal justice system, however, if the screening reveals that the teenage offender has identifiable needs, the ADP team will meet to decide what type of services are appropriate. Programs vary based on the needs of the individual and include inpatient and outpatient treatment for substance abuse, Youth Court, anger management programs and community service.