Efficacy of Pretrial Intervention

The criminal justice system is predicated on two foundations punishment and rehabilitation. This means that the accused is being tried for unlawful acts because he or she should be held to account for them through service of sentence in jail andor payment of fines and other penalties. But it also means that apart from having the accused realize the error of his or her ways, there is a correlated goal to change the life of the accused in order that he or she might become a better and more productive member of society.

This step towards rehabilitation should not begin only inside the penal facility rather, it should be actively promoted inside the courtroom and even prior to adversarial proceedings. The very nature of adversarial proceedings causes the accused to feel defensive about him or herself. Pretrial intervention (PTI) systems have been introduced in court rooms in order to assess whether there is a chance for rehabilitation of the accused. PTI has also been used to help the accused understand his or her role, if any, in the offense that occurred and how he or she can account for or amend the situation. PTI therefore holds a significant role in the achievement of the rehabilitation goal integrated in the criminal justice system.

Eligibility for Pretrial Intervention
The process of pretrial intervention finds basis in statutory law. PTI is practiced only in criminal cases, although not for all offenses that are covered in criminal law. The statute mandates the conduct of PTI when the offender is a first-time offender or is a person convicted of a charge involving not more than one non-violent misdemeanor. The current charge must be only for a misdemeanor or a third degree felony. Persons charged with a second degree felony may also be eligible however the statute enumerates which felonies are contemplated and it further provides that the accused should not have been charged with a crime of violence.

The methods employed in PTI to promote the rehabilitation of accused persons are counseling, supervision, education, and medical and psychological services. A person who has no prior conviction in his or her record and has never participated in a felony PTI program is also qualified for pretrial substance abuse, education and treatment program. It is essential that the person eligible for PTI has consulted with an attorney, voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived the right to speedy trial during the duration, and obtained the victim and the courts consent. In pretrial substance abuse the accused may be admitted on the motion of any of the parties or by the court motu proprio.

Effects of PTI
The following studies will help to frame an understanding of the efficacy of PTI as a rehabilitative remedy for the criminal justice system.

Recidivism Analysis of Post-Arrest Diversion
In the study conducted by Dembo, Walters, Wareham, Burgos, Schmeidler, Hoge, and Underwood (2008), more than 300 participants of a post-arrest diversion program were studied. The researchers assessed the effectiveness of the program by measuring and assessing the recidivism risk levels of each of the participants. The researchers were careful to include in their assessment the number of participants who didnt complete the diversion program, particularly those who were not able to do so because of recidivism. Regression analysis was conducted to examine the predictive ability of the 12-month follow up period.

Dembo et al. (2008) found that participants who completed the diversion program had significantly fewer arrests and charges participants who did not complete it. However, their study is weak in external validity because of the particular age-range and criminal violations of their participants. The case may not be applicable to non-adolescent offenders. Furthermore, their study did not assess the differences in the baselines of psychological health of the participants neither was the improvement in psychological health measured. The mere completion of the program does not present any guarantees as to successful social integration although it is shown as an indicator of reduced recidivism.

The researchers discuss the importance of creating diversion programs which are grounded on individual assessments of offender risks factors and needs. The cost that this would entail to the government is acknowledged but the effectiveness of the process in reducing repeat offenses is clear. They observe that diversion programs which are grounded on screening, assessment and case management seem to support the risk factors affecting adolescent offenders.

Analysis of Family Empowerment Interventions
The second study to be assessed herein also observed an intervention program directed towards youthful offenders. This study targeted the improvement of family functioning in order to promote the advance the behavioral and psychological functioning of the offenders (Dembo, Schmeidler,  Wothke, 2003). The goal of the study was relevant to the present research because it directly considered the rehabilitative potential of diversion programs. Thus, the focus of the study extended past the duration of the program and the possibility of re-appearance before the criminal court and looked towards behavioral improvement in the household setting.

An experimental study was conducted with one group of families being subjected to regular home-based meetings and follow-ups and the other group being given only contact details and referral information. The study showed that adolescents involved in the experimental group reflected greater declines in delinquency involvement. The delinquency rates of the adolescents were determined through a self-report system. This data was validated through comparisons with official arrest records during the duration of the intervention program. This study has high external validity but low internal validity. The reliability of the self-report data is questionable, particularly given the sensitive nature of the information being given.

Despite the positive findings of the study, the researchers did not assess the program on the basis of future applications. There was no discussion as to steps that juvenile courts might take to ensure the improvement of diversion programs for youthful offenders. However, there was as a discussion as to the need for family-oriented programs because of the frequent case of lack of resources of families to enroll their children and themselves in intervention programs.

The studies have shown that intervention programs decrease recidivism and delinquent behavior. Future research would do well to explore whether or not family-oriented intervention programs and programs focusing on risk factors and needs are likewise effective for adult offenders.


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