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Deferring felony prosecution: a process evaluation of an innovative Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office program

Jennifer Cossyleon (Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
John Orwat (School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Christine George (CURL, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Don Stemen (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Whitney Key (School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 4 December 2017

53

Abstract

Purpose

The Cook County State Attorneys’ Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) is a pre-trial diversionary program that accepts first-time, non-violent defendants charged with a felony crime. The purpose of this paper is to document the development, implementation, and program patterns of the DPP to better understand the program’s scope and reach in diverting defendants from traditional criminal prosecution.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach to evaluating Cook County’s DPP is primarily qualitative. Through interviews with program administrators and current and former participants, the authors document the process of creating and implementing such DPP that aims to avoid a felony conviction altogether. The authors provide program participant patterns to shed light on the program’s scope and reach in diverting defendants from traditional felony prosecution.

Findings

Using data from staff, administrators, and program participants, the authors found that the DPP was developed and implemented through supportive leadership who instilled a culture of collaboration and buy-in. Expanding the program could include increasing the capacity of DPP to include additional participants or having a DPP incorporated into each branch court, instead of the centralized system under which it currently operates. Increasing the capacity and scope of the program could both further decrease criminal court caseloads and most importantly avoid a higher number of stigmatizing felony convictions for first-time non-violent defendants.

Practical implications

DPPs are cost effective and can be easily implemented within existing systems. Collaboration and buy-in from all stakeholders are crucial to the program’s success. DPP offers opportunities for expansion. Increasing the capacity and scope of the program could both further decrease criminal court caseloads and most importantly avoid a higher number of stigmatizing felony convictions for first-time non-violent felony defendants.

Originality/value

The main goals of DPP were two-fold. The first was to minimize the level of resources allocated for non-violent offenders in the criminal justice system by diverting such defendants out of the criminal justice system early in the process and reducing the recidivism rates of program participants. The second aimed to provide an option for eligible defendants to avoid a felony conviction, thereby avoiding the collateral consequences associating with a felony conviction.

Keywords

Citation

Cossyleon, J., Orwat, J., George, C., Stemen, D. and Key, W. (2017), "Deferring felony prosecution: a process evaluation of an innovative Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office program", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 261-273. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-01-2017-0003

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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