Wolfson touts “smart reform,” but does it work? Don’t ask him.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson is The advertisement “smart reform” as a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, including a post-conviction diversion program designed to keep defendants out of jail.
“By successfully completing this program, offenders can receive the help they need, rather than being sent to jail,” Wolfson’s campaign website says of Hope for Second Chances, a program he created using the nationally recognized “Hope for Prisoners” program. input program as a template. Defendants successfully complete the program by graduating from Hope for Prisoners (HFP).
But Wolfson’s office says it doesn’t have the data that would help determine whether the program is working, such as the number of participants and the number of people who have successfully completed it.
“The information you request is not tracked in our case management system,” assistant DA Christopher Lalli said via email.
Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment.
Jon Ponder, founder of HFP, did not respond to requests for data on the program.
Wolfson Told the Nevada Independent in 2020, he watched HFP”flourish in “the best reintegration program in the country”. I went to Jon and said, ‘How about this program? … We came up with the fancy name – Hope for Second Chances – and Jon said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So it has been operational for about a year now and we are in the process of training the defense bar and the judges.
The program had around 30 participants at the time, including “some violent offenders, aged around 18 to 30, who were deemed likely to succeed in the pre-entry programme”, wrote the Independent.
The State Courts Administrative Office tracks diversion programs for Nevada courts.
“We have no record of the program or information about this program in our database. I have also checked and confirmed that this is not one of the Specialized Courts programs monitored by the Supreme Court Specialized Courts Program Coordinator,” wrote Hans Jessup of the Supreme Courts Administrative Office. ‘State. “We get our data directly from the 8e Judicial District Court” – the court that serves Clark County – “so if they weren’t involved in this program, we wouldn’t have any information.”
Like the current reported last month, local court officials said they were unaware of the program or did not participate in it. Wolfson did not respond to questions from The Current about which tribunal is implementing Hope for Second Chances.
“While I’ve heard of the program, I have no knowledge of the details,” said Robert Langford, a defense attorney Wolfson defeated in the 2018 race for DA.
“I’ve never heard of it,” said Sarah Hawkins, chair of the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
Ozzie Fumo, who is challenging Wolfson in the Democratic primary, says he has no knowledge of the program.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Wolfson can’t say what kind of impact the diversion programs he claims to be so proud of are having on our community,” Fumo said in a statement, adding that he was in favor of diversion programs. diversion that give people the help they need. “But we won’t know if these programs are working unless we have data on who is going through them and if the DA’s office is transparent about their success or shortcomings.”
Diversion programs are not new to the criminal justice field. A center for judicial innovation report says that in 1977 some 200 diversion programs existed in the United States
Some, like Hope for Second Chances, require defendants to plead guilty. Others divert defendants from the system before they have pleaded guilty. Under the latter model, completion typically results in no charges being laid or charges being dismissed, according to the Center for Court Innovation.
“I’ve always maintained that pre-charge diversion programs are the most effective,” says Langford.
Although most criminal justice experts agree that pre-plea diversion can help unclog the system while helping nonviolent offenders avoid the lifelong consequences of a conviction, such as discrimination in housing and employment, some say it can be used unfairly and as a way to negotiate with privileged defense attorneys.
“Most courts are a post-plea model,” Erin Collins, associate professor at the Richmond School of Law, Told the American Bar Association Journal in 2019. “The threat of the punishment they would have received hangs over their heads while they are in the program. I would be more encouraged by real diversion programs that actually divert people from the system.
Among defendants graduating from all specialty courts in Nevada in 2017, an average of 75% were not convicted in the following three years.
Mary Ann Price, spokesperson for Clark County District Courts, said in 2018 not all Veterans Treatment Court graduates were convicted within three years, the highest compliance rate. high of all specialty courts in Clark County.
- 98.2% of Clark County Felony DUI Court graduates have not reoffended within three years,
- 92.1% of adult drug court graduates have not reoffended within three years.
- 89.5% of Mental Health Court graduates have not reoffended within three years.
- 82.7% of juvenile drug court graduates did not reoffend within three years
- 62.5% of OPEN Court graduates have not reoffended within three years. OPEN Court offers behavior modification programs for people between the ages of 18 and 26 who have been incarcerated. The goal is to reintegrate them into the communities while meeting the demands of the courts.
The Las Vegas City Court also has a number of specialty courts, including Women In Need, which helps people formerly involved in the sex trade.
Over the past five years, according to City of Las Vegas spokesman Jace Radke, 89 people have participated in this tribunal and 28 have graduated.