SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – State Auditor Suzanne Bump is calling on the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office to better assess their Juvenile Diversion Program.
Bump released an audit Thursday of the program, which is available to first-time offenders between the ages of 7 and 18 who are charged with certain crimes including alcohol offenses, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, breaking and entering, and shoplifting.
It allows juveniles to postpone their arraignment while completing program requirements such as seeking counseling, paying restitution, performing community service, and completing educational courses. Once completed, the charges against the participant are dropped.
According to Bump’s office, the audit found that the DA’s office failed to collect and analyze program data related to recidivism, making it difficult to see whether they are meeting the program’s goals.
In the audit, Bump calls on the DA’s office to improve its identification, collection, and evaluation of data in a number of areas, including participant recidivism, to better assess the effectiveness of the program.
In a statement sent to 22News, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s Office said the process suggested is “neither practical nor sensible.”
“The Juvenile diversion program is a discretionary program funded and run by the office. The findings by the Auditor are done by those with no experience or base of knowledge. Numerous studies have shown diversion for low-risk, low-offending juveniles works and, more important, gives young people a second chance and a clean slate. The effectiveness of our program is keeping juveniles, kids between 7-18, away from formal court proceedings, where they can be provided the appropriate counseling, mental health referrals, education, and community service.”
Bump’s audit also looked over the Hampden County DA Office’s Victim Witness Assistance Program in which it found no deficiencies.