This summary report presents the findings of a 1977-79 evaluation of the Court Employment Project (CEP) in New York City, the Nation's first pretrial diversion program, designed to divert young offenders from the stigma of conviction.
CEP used administrative separation and independent screening of court cases to identify appropriate defendants and to advocate for their diversion. It also provided diverted defendants with employment and other manpower services and negotiated with prosecutors to agree to dismiss charges and seal official records for defendants who successfully participated in the project's services. To measure CEP's impact, the Vera Institute designed an experimental study with the following major characteristics: the concurrent and random assignment of defendants, screened as eligible for pretrial diversion, to an experimental group (diverted) and to a control group (normally processed in the court); a research population large enough to permit adequate analysis of program impact (666 subjects); a followup period of at least 1 year after intake for all experimental and control group members, including program dropouts; and an extensive data base on all research subjects. The study found that pretrial diversion was an alternative to normal court processing but that it was not typically an alternative to full prosecution, criminal conviction, or official sanction or supervision because almost half the diverted defendants would not have been prosecuted and the rest would have had their cases disposed of leniently. Also, the project was not able to make a meaningful difference in the vocational status of those who were diverted, in their lifestyles, or in the likelihood of their future involvement in the criminal justice system. The study suggests that CEP did not have a substantial impact on dispositions in 1977 because dismissal rates, in cases of the kind diverted, were already high in the New York City criminal courts. Other explanations of the CEP evaluation findings are also detailed. Nineteen footnotes are given. Descriptions of the CEP and of the evaluation are appended; a bibliography of about 60 references is included.
Date Published: January 1, 1981