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Prosecutor-LedPretrial DiversionCase Studies in ElevenJurisdictionsBy Melissa Labriola, Warren A. Reich, Robert C. Davis, Priscillia Hunt,Michael Rempel, and Samantha Cherney

Prosecutor-Led Pretrial Diversion: Case Studies in Eleven JurisdictionsBy Melissa Labriola, Warren A. Reich, Robert C. Davis, Priscillia Hunt, Samantha Cherney,and Michael Rempel April 2018Center for Court Innovation520 Eighth Avenue, 18th FloorNew York, New York 10018646.386.3100 fax 212.397.0985www.courtinnovation.orgThis project was supported by Award No. 2012-IJ-CX-0036, awarded by the NationalInstitute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions,findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of theauthor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

AcknowledgementsWe are deeply grateful to Linda Truitt, Senior Social Science Analyst at the NationalInstitute of Justice, and to Nadine Frederique, who served as grant manager when this projectbegan, for their guidance and unflagging assistance.Although confidentiality prevents us from reporting the names of every individual whoparticipated in stakeholder and staff interviews, this project would not have been possiblewithout the hard work and dedication of many participating prosecutor’s offices and theirrespective partners. We are especially grateful for the assistance of the following points ofcontact, who helped coordinate site visits: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office: Former Cook County State’s Attorney AnitaAlvarez and Mark Kammerer, Director of Court Diversion. Chittenden County State’s Attorney Office: Former Chittenden County State’sAttorney T. J. Donavan and Emmet B. Helrich, Community Coordinator, RapidIntervention Community Court. Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office: Derek Riker, Chief, Diversion Courts Unit. Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office: Douglas Kramer, CEO, TreatmentAccountability for Safer Communities (TASC). City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office: Martha Perez Loubert, Diversion Programs andVictim Services Administrator (Retired). Hennepin County Attorney’s Office: Paul Scoggin and former director of De Novo, T.Williams. Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office: Jeff Altenburg, Deputy District Attorneyfor Community Prosecution and Early Intervention. Dallas County District Attorney’s Office: L. Rachael Jones, former Chief ofCommunity Prosecution and former Dallas County District Attorney, Craig Watkins. San Diego City Attorney’s Office: Michael S. Giorgino, Chief Deputy City Attorney. San Francisco District Attorney’s Office: Katherine Weinstein Miller, Chief ofAlternative Programs and Initiatives.AcknowledgementsPage i

Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office: Camilo Cruz, Director of Community JusticeInitiative.At the Center for Court Innovation, we thank Greg Berman for his comments on an earlierversion of the final report. We also thank our colleagues Julius Lang and Sarah Fritsche fortheir many helpful insights related to prosecutor-led diversion programs across the country.We are also grateful to Isabella Banks for her careful editorial review prior to publication.For correspondence, please contact Michael Rempel, Center for Court mentsPage ii

Table of ContentsAcknowledgementsList of Tables and FiguresExecutive SummaryivviChapter 1.Introduction1Chapter 2.Research Design6Chapter 3.Program Goals10Chapter 4.Program History, Structure, and Legal Context18Chapter 5.Target Population23Chapter 6.Program Mandates, Supervision, and Legal Leverage30Chapter 7.Program Strengths and Challenges35Chapter 8.Focus Group Findings39Chapter 9.Lessons Learned from Los Angeles43Chapter 10.Pretrial Diversion Yesterday and Today54Table of ContentsPage iii

References57AppendicesAppendix A. Interview Protocol OutlineAppendix B. Structured Focus Group GuideAppendix C. Program Logic ModelsTable of Contents596364Page iv

List of Tables and FiguresTable ES.1. Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs in the StudyTable 1.1. List of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs in the StudyTable 3.1. Goals of Prosecutor-Led Diversion ProgramsTable 4.1. Key Facts Regarding Program History, Structure, and Legal ContextTable 5.1. Target PopulationTable 5.2. Screening and Eligibility Determination ProcessTable 6.1. Diversion Program Mandates, Required Services, and ProgramDuration and DosageList of Tables and Figuresvii31421252931Page v

Executive SummaryIn response to tightening state budgets, combined with persistently large criminal caseloadsand local jail populations, jurisdictions around the country have been seeking alternatives totraditional case processing. One such alternative is prosecutor-led diversion, which typicallyinvolves providing treatment or services in lieu of prosecution for low-level defendants.With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the primary focus of this study was toprovide a national portrait of prosecutor-led diversion through case studies of the goals,history, policies, and practices of diversion programs implemented in 11 prosecutors’ offices.In general, relatively large, high volume programs were selected for inclusion in the research,with ten of the 11 prosecutors’ offices handling cases in large urban areas. The programswere also intentionally selected to provide for variation in program timing (pre- or postfiling); target population (e.g., misdemeanor, felony, or more specific types of charges);program intensity and duration; and other policies and practices.The research was implemented by the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) in collaborationwith the RAND Corporation, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), and the PoliceFoundation. A second phase of the same overall study, whose results are publishedseparately, includes quasi-experimental impact and cost evaluations of programs in a morelimited number of prosecutors’ offices (see Rempel et al. 2017 for an overview of the entireproject).Brief Overview of the Study DesignThe case studies provided in this report were designed to produce a rich understanding ofcontemporary prosecutor-led pretrial diversion programs nationwide. The research involvedthree strategies: (1) intensive case studies of 15 diversion programs run by ten prosecutors’offices across the country; (2) focus groups with diversion participants in select sites; and (3)an examination of lessons learned from an eleventh site, the Los Angeles City Attorney’sOffice, which experienced a change of leadership and consequent revamping of diversionprograms during a period overlapping with the timing of our study.Executive SummaryPage vi

Results from Case Studies of 15 ProgramsAs shown in the table below, case studies were conducted of 15 diversion programs in tenjurisdictions—all large urban settings, except for Chittenden County, Vermont. Researchmethods included document review; in-person observations; semi-structured interviews ofprosecutors and representatives from partner agencies; and a review of program data.The Goals of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Multiple Goals: Whereas older diversion programs of the 1970s tended to prioritizedefendant rehabilitation and recidivism reduction, these goals currently occupy a lesspreeminent role. Instead, each of the following seven general types of goals receivedsupport from at least six of the 15 focal programs: (1) administrative efficiency/costsavings; (2) reduced methods; (3) community engagement; (4) defendant accountability;(5) recidivism reduction; (6) rehabilitation; and (7) restorative justice. Most Common Goals: Allowing for the aforementioned goal-diversity, the mostcommonly endorsed goals were: (1) administrative efficiency/cost savings—by routingmany cases away from traditional prosecution and redirecting resources to other moreserious cases; and (2) reducing convictions and methods for defendants—by dismissingor expunging the cases of persons who complete diversion requirements.Program History, Structure, and Legal Context Planning: Staff affiliated with most (although not all) programs experienced littleresistance from partner agencies (e.g., the judiciary, public defenders, probation, orcommunity partners) when planning their diversion models. Stakeholders largely sharedan interest in achieving the expected benefits of diversion. Partnerships: Specific partnerships with community-based agencies (or a lack thereof)varied widely. For example, Hennepin County’s Operation De Novo and MaricopaCounty’s Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) program werevirtually self-contained, in that all services and restitution programming took place inhouse. Philadelphia’s Small Amount of Marijuana program partnered with the FirstJudicial District Court to provide classes. Other programs maintained extensive linkageswith community providers including homeless services, veteran’s affairs, mental healthproviders, and substance abuse treatment centers. San Francisco’s Neighborhood Courtsprogram depended upon identifying multiple neighborhood-based locations for holdingrestorative justice sessions, in which neighborhood representatives served as activeparticipants in the diversion model.Executive SummaryPage vii

ES.1. Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs in the StudyProgramStartTiming ofDiversionChargeSeverityChargeSpecialization Rapid Intervention Community Court Project2010Mixed modelMisdNo Small Amount of Marijuana Program (SAM)2010Post-filingMisdMarijuana Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP)2010Post-filingMisdNo Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)1972Post-filingMisd and felNo Cook County Drug School Cook County Misdemeanor DiversionProgram Cook County Felony Diversion Program Operation De Novo (Property and DrugDiversion) Diversion Program Deferred Prosecution ProgramSouth1972Post-filingMisd and el1971Mixed modelFelNoDrug andproperty20072007Pre-filingPost-filingMisd and felMisd and felNo Memo Agreement Program2007Post-filingMisdMainlyretail theftor marijProsecutor’sJurisdictionProgram NameNortheastChittenden County (VT)Philadelphia (PA)MidwestCook County State'sAttorney's Office (IL)Hennepin County (MN)Milwaukee County (WI)Dallas County Attorney'sOffice (TX)WestMaricopa County (AZ) Maricopa TASC Adult Prosecution Program1989Mixed modelFelPhoenix City (AZ) Project Rose2011Pre-filingMisdSan Diego City (CA) Beach Area Community Court2005Pre-filingSan Francisco (CA) Neighborhood Courts2011Mixed modelMisd andCitationsMisd and felTarget Population Timing of Diversion: Shown in the table above, of the 15 programs, three adopt a prefiling model (diverting cases before and in lieu of initiating a criminal court case), eightadopt a post-filing model (after the court process is underway), and four programs enrolldifferent participants either pre- or post-filing (i.e., mixed model). Eligible Charges: Unlike early programs of the 1970s, current models are notexclusively focused on the very lowest level charges. Instead, nine of the 15 programs weexamined either target felonies or a mix of misdemeanors and felonies (see above). Inaddition, six of the 15 programs solely targeted one or two specific types of crime, mostoften drug or marijuana possession, whereas the other nine programs did not specialize ina specific charge type. One program in Phoenix specializes in prostitution cases, andHennepin County’s De Novo program has separate tracks for drug and property felonies.Executive SummaryPage viiiDrug/marij.ProstitutionNoNo

Risk-Needs Assessment: Only four programs use a formal, validated risk assessmenttool. Milwaukee makes the greatest use of risk assessment to inform eligibility decisionsand program requirements. In Milwaukee, low-risk defendants are routed to a brief, prefiling Diversion Program and medium-risk defendants are routed to a higher-dosage postfiling Deferred Prosecution Program, with services in the latter program tailored to eachdefendant’s needs. Although few programs assess for risk, nine of the 15 administer aneeds assessment of some kind, primarily to determine appropriate services.Program Mandates “One Size Fits All” Models: Five programs use a straightforward “one size fits all”approach, linking participants to a standard set of educational classes, community servicehours, or other requirements that, where completed, trigger a case dismissal. Individualized Mandates: Ten programs use individualized mandates to at least somedegree, assigning different social or treatment services based on defendants’ needs. Someof these programs use some standardized and some individualized components. Specific Services and Treatment Modalities: 13 of the 15 programs use educationalclasses about the relevant problem behavior, including classes about drug use, harms ofDUI, theft, prostitution, weapons, health, and/or parenting. Only one programconsistently uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), although two otherprograms use CBT with some of their participants. Community Service: Ten programs order at least some participants to performcommunity service. Restorative Justice: Five programs use restorative justice groups with at least someparticipants, in which they attend sessions with community members and/or victims andare asked to take responsibility for their behavior. For San Francisco’s NeighborhoodCourts diversion program and Los Angeles’ newly created Neighborhood JusticeInitiative, restorative justice represents a core organizing principle of the model.Supervision and Legal Leverage Supervision: A majority of programs required participants to meet with a case manageror probation officer. Legal Ramifications of Program Completion: In all pre-filing programs, successfulcompletion of diversion requirements leads the cases to be closed by the prosecutor’soffice. Across the post-filing programs, most dismiss the cases of successful participants,although not all programs fully expunge any record of the arrest.Executive SummaryPage ix

Legal Ramifications of Program Termination: Diversion program participants who donot successfully complete program requirements risked court filing or resumption of theircase in all programs we examined.Focus Group FindingsFocus groups were held with participants in five programs: Rapid Intervention CommunityCourt (RICC) in Chittenden County, Vermont; Felony Diversion Program in Cook County,Illinois; Early Interventions Project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (drawing participants fromMilwaukee’s Diversion and Deferred Prosecution Programs); Neighborhood Courts programin San Francisco, California; and Operation DeNovo in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Motivation to Participate: Focus group participants in all sites did not feel coerced toparticipate, reporting that they freely determined it was in their best interests. Participantsvariously cited diversion as better than jail, wanting to have their court cases end morequickly, and thinking they would have less chance of missing work or getting fired thanin the traditional process (which could end in conviction or missing work to attend court). Understanding Program Requirements: Participants from most of the programsthought that the program requirements were adequately explained to them in advance. Individualized Accommodations: Participants across most sites responded positively toprogram elements that were individualized. These elements variously included: tailoringspecific requirements to their needs; allowing classes or appointments to be rescheduledbased on personal circumstances; and receiving extra time to complete the program ifthey ran into problems. However, participants in two sites expressed the opposite view onthe specific issue of scheduling, lamenting a lack of flexibility with appointment times. Fairness: Focus group participants largely believed that the diversion program was fair,especially compared to the traditional criminal justice system. Overall, the participantshad positive views about the value of pretrial diversion, although some saw its only valueas a means of avoiding jail, while others felt it improved their lives in broader ways.Lessons Learned from Los AngelesA change in leadership within the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office in 2013 provided anopportunity to examine a major reconstitution and expansion of diversion programs. Eventhough diversionary programs had existed before the current City Attorney, Mike Feuer,began his tenure, he created the Community Justice Initiative (CJI) as an umbrella unit fordiversion, restorative justice, and alternative sentencing. Under an expanded set of programs,diversion came to be routinely used in pre-filing, post-filing, and post-disposition settingsExecutive SummaryPage x

with a variety of populations, including individuals arrested for drug possession, low-levelmisdemeanor charges, truancy, prostitution, and homelessness. Across multiple staff andstakeholder interviews, innovation and creative thinking were consistently described as thedefining characteristics of the newly fashioned Community Justice Initiative.Strengths and ChallengesThe diversion programs under examination exhibited significant diversity in their targetpopulations and policies. However, a number of noteworthy strengths applying to most ormany of the programs we examined were: inclusive planning processes involving both publicdefenders and the court; willingness to offer diversion to cases with a prior record and toselect felonies; use of pre-filing programs in some sites that route defendants away from thecourt process before it even begins; consistent dismissals for diversion completion (limitingcollateral consequences for defendants); and generally positive perceptions, as articulated bystaff, stakeholders, and program participants themselves. Notable challenges included: use offines and fees in some programs as a precondition for completion; significant use of “onesize fits all” program mandates in many sites; and a lack of evidence-based treatment in mostsites (e.g., only a small number of sites use cognitive-behavioral approaches).ConclusionThere were a number of important study limitations, including a focus on 16 high-volumeprograms that were virtually all located in large jurisdictions and whose staff were willingand interested in participating in an intensive study. While recognizing these limitations,several clear themes emerged. Perhaps most notably, today’s prosecutor-led diversionprograms appear to differ fundamentally from the original models implemented almost a halfcentury ago. The early programs were largely driven by the goals of rehabilitating defendantsand reducing recidivism. In today’s programs, staff and stakeholders appear to focus more onimmediate benefits to defendants, such as avoiding the collateral consequences of a criminalrecord and on gaining resource efficiencies by routing cases away from the traditional courtprocess. In addition, diversion programs of the 1970s and 1980s were often criticized forfocusing on extremely low-level cases that would have been dismissed or declined even inthe absence of diversion. In comparison, most of the 15 programs we studied accepted a widearray of charges, including both misdemeanor and felony defendants. Finally, in theprograms we observed, we found that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the court tended towork collaboratively to plan the program model and identify appropriate diversion cases.Executive SummaryPage xi

Chapter 1IntroductionIn 2015, there were an estimated 18.1 million new criminal cases filed in the United States(Schauffler et al. 2016). The large caseload, combined with budget cuts to criminal justiceagencies (Greenberg and Cherney 2017) and accelerated interest in alternatives to traditionalprosecution (National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, 2010), have led criminaljustice policymakers to search for new ways of handling their cases. Increasingly, reformershave alighted on the potential benefits of pretrial diversion programs that redirect cases awayfrom traditional processing and, in so doing, provide relief for courts, prosecutors, anddefense agencies as well as mitigate the well-documented collateral consequences ofprosecution for defendants (NAPSA 2010).About the Current StudyTo produce a better understanding of the contemporary world of prosecutor-led diversion,the National Institute of Justice funded the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), the RANDCorporation, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Police Foundation to conducta two-phase, multi-year study. The first phase included case studies of the history, goals,policies, practices, and perceived strengths and challenges of 16 pretrial diversion programsled by 11 prosecutor’s offices from across the country (see Table 1.1). The majority ofprograms were situated in large urban settings, with ten of the 11 prosecutors’ offices servingjurisdictions whose population exceeded 800,000. Phase Two included quasi-experimentalimpact and cost evaluations of a more limited number of programs (see Rempel et al. 2017for an overview of the entire project, including major findings from the impact evaluation).The current report presents findings and conclusions from Phase One—i.e., from the casestudies in 11 prosecutor’s offices. The report is based on three research strategies:1. In-Depth Case Studies of 15 Programs: Intensive, multi-method case studies wereconducted of 15 diversion programs in ten of the 11 prosecutors’ offices.2. Lessons from Changing Leadership: A case study was also conducted of lessonslearned from the eleventh prosecutor’s office, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office,Chapter 1Page 1

which underwent a change of leadership during the study period and saw significantchanges and expansions in the nature and scope of diversion programming.3. Participant Focus Groups: A series of focus groups gathered the perceptions ofprogram participants in six of the 15 programs (located in five of the 11 jurisdictions).Overview of Prosecutor-Led Pretrial DiversionIn general, pretrial diversion programs involve the use of community service, treatment, orsocial services in lieu of traditional prosecution. Successful program completion generallyleads all criminal charges to be dismissed and/or expunged, whereas unsuccessfulparticipation leads case to be re-routed back to traditional prosecution.Multiple Types of DiversionThere are several basic types of pretrial diversion, based on which agency runs theprogram—law enforcement, prosecutors, or courts—and at which point in the criminaljustice process diversion takes place—before a case ever reaches the court, after a casereaches the court but before a disposition, or after a disposition. Police-led diversiontypically happens before a case is forwarded to either the prosecutor’s office or the court,allowing defendants to participate in programming in lieu of any system involvement beyondthe initial contact with an arresting police officer (Tallon, Labriola, and Spadafore 2017). Bycontrast, prosecutor-led diversion—which constitutes the focus of the present study—typically occurs at one of two later stages. In pre-filing diversion, the prosecutor’s officereceives the case from law enforcement, but the prosecutor opts not to file charges with thecourt so long as the defendant completes diversionary programming. In post-filing diversion,the prosecutor files the case with the court, typically leading to one or more courtappearances, but then—generally in partnership with the court—the prosecutor suspends thenormal adjudication process while diversion participation takes place.Potential Shortcomings of DiversionDespite their potential to create system efficiencies, link defendants to needed services, andreduce the collateral consequences of a conviction, diversion programs that are not carefullydesigned can also produce unintended negative effects. For instance, if diversion is limited toextremely low-level misconduct that would rarely have led to a conviction or jail time withinthe preexisting status quo, diversion could expose defendants to more, not less, onerousChapter 1Page 2

requirements and consequences than traditional processing. In addition, if diversionprograms pursue goals related to recidivism reduction and rehabilitation of participants, butonly offer treatment classes of extremely brief duration or use treatment approaches that donot adhere to evidence-based practices, diversion may raise unrealistic behavioral changerelated expectations. Of even greater concern, if diversionary services adopt a “one size fitsall” approach, defendants may be required to participate in services they do not need; or,worse yet, defendants who pose a “low risk” of re-offending may be required to attendservices alongside their “high risk” counterparts, potentially leading to contagion effects thatincrease recidivism (Andrews and Bonta 2010; Lowenkamp and Latessa 2004).Table 1.1. List of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs in the ctionPopulation Rapid Intervention Community Court Project2010161,000 Small Amount of Marijuana Program (SAM)2010 Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP)2010 Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)1972Program Est.)NortheastChittenden County (VT)Philadelphia (PA)5,000 019711,223,000N/A6,500MidwestCook County State'sAttorney's Office (IL)Hennepin County (MN)Milwaukee County (WI)Dallas County Attorney'sOffice (TX) Cook County Drug School Cook County Misdemeanor DiversionProgram Cook County Felony Diversion Program Operation De Novo (Property and DrugDiversion) Diversion Program Deferred Prosecution ProgramSouth197220072007957,7356,6006,200 Memo Agreement ,000N/A20122011WestCity of Los Angeles (CA) Community Justice InitiativeMaricopa County (AZ) Maricopa TASC Adult Prosecution Program19894,168,000N/A30,000Phoenix City (AZ) Project Rose20111,583,00045,000N/ASan Diego City (CA) Beach Area Community Court20051,391,00020,000N/ASan Francisco (CA) Neighborhood Courts2011864,8164,3004,300Chapter 1Page 3

Limited Prior ResearchSurprisingly, there has been little research to date on prosecutor-led diversion programs, afact that explains the interest of the National Institute of Justice in funding the currentnational-scope evaluation. Further, what little research has been completed has yieldedrelatively mixed findings, raising important questions about the conditions under whichdiversion programs can successfully translate their founders’ aspirations into positive resultson the ground.Mixed Results of Early Pretrial Diversion ExperimentsFormal pretrial diversion programs date back to the 1967 President’s Commission on LawEnforcement. Recognizing that courts were overcrowded, the Commission recommendedthat first-time defendants who suffered from unemployment, alcoholism, or mental illnessmight benefit more from a service intervention than traditional prosecution. In response, theDepartment of Labor (DOL) funded two large experiments, one in New York City and one inWashington, D.C. Other federally-funded experiments followed in the early 1970s, and by1977 there were reportedly over 200 diversion programs nationwide (Feeley 1983).These early programs placed severe restrictions on the severity of offenses accepted fordiversion, with most programs focusing on minor misconduct and many programs focusingon only one or a few types of charges. These programs also generally adopted a “one size fitsall” approach to treatment, with a single treatment option, usually supplied by in-house staff.Early evaluation studies reported equivocal findings. An initial quasi-experiment suggestedthat the New York City diversion experiment placed nearly all participants in jobs and cutthe recidivism rate in half (Vera Institute of Justice 1972). Yet, a subsequent randomizedcontrolled trial (RCT) found no differences in case outcomes, vocational outcomes, rearrests, or days in jail (Baker and Sadd 1979). The researchers in the follow-up RCT pointedto the possibility that these null effects resulted from eligibility criteria that largely targetedlow-level cases—i.e., cases that would not have experienced adverse legal outcomes in thepreexisting status quo before diversion was implemented (Baker and Sadd 1979). Anotherfederally funded program in New Haven, Connecticut was initially touted as a modelprogram. Yet, research found that the New Haven program was more expensive than postconviction probation (Freed et al. 1973).Chapter 1Page 4

Some early diversion models were pre-filing, routing defendants away from the criminaljustice system entirely, before beginning any court process. Others, such as a Department ofLabor (DOL)-funded site in San Jose (CA), operated after a court case was filed but prior toa final disposition of the criminal case. Research indicates that, as in New York City,prosecutors in San Jose only admitted defendants charged with low-level misconduct, whowould otherwise have received, at most, a small fine or suspended sentence (Feeley 1983).Given the predominance of null findings across multiple federally-funded sites in the 1970sand early 1980s, few local jurisdictions were willing to absorb the cost of pretrial diversionprograms once start-up funds ran out, and the initial round of programs were frequentlyeither terminated or substantially modified and scaled-back.Recent Diversion ResearchIn recent years, few prosecutor-led diversion programs have been the subject of an in-depthand scientifically rigorous evaluation. Regarding pretrial diversion programs for adults (notlimited to programs run by prosecutors), recent evaluations are both limited in number a

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