Abstract: Recidivism Outcomes Among Participants in a Misdemeanor Deferred Prosecution Program (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

Recidivism Outcomes Among Participants in a Misdemeanor Deferred Prosecution Program

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Epperson Matt, Associate Professor, University of Chicago
Rachel Garthe, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Leon Sawh, MPH, Project Manager, University of Chicago, IL
Sophia Sarantakos, MSW, LCSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: Deferred prosecution programs divert individuals charged with specific offenses (e.g., misdemeanors) from traditional court proceedings if they participate in pre-indictment requirements (e.g., complete needs assessment, restitution payments). In return, their charge(s) are dismissed. This type of diversion allows individuals to avoid deeper involvement in the criminal justice system, making this type of program appealing to individuals who have had minimal criminal justice involvement. However, little research has examined the extent to which participants in these programs avoid recidivism. The current study examined two recidivism outcomes – arrests and convictions – for participants in a large Misdemeanor Deferred Prosecution Program (MDPP).

Methods: Administrative data were used from 4,167 individuals enrolled in a Midwestern MDPP (2012-2018). Eligibility for MDPP included: current non-violent misdemeanor charge; no prior felony convictions; less than 5 non-violent misdemeanor convictions in the past 10 years; and no more than 1 driving under the influence or domestic battery conviction. To successfully complete MDPP, participants completed a two-session needs assessment, and must not have been arrested again within the three-month program period. Arrest and sentence data for these participants (through 2019) were obtained from state criminal justice records and matched with MDPP data. Logistic regression analyses were utilized to analyze post-program arrest and sentences (e.g., sentenced to time in jail/prison), as predicted by program completion status, charges, and demographic variables.

Results: MDPP participants (N = 4167) were 54% Male, with 43% identifying as Black, 42% White, 11% Hispanic, and 4% Other. 3561 individuals (86.2%) successfully completed MDPP, resulting in a dismissal of their charge. First, recidivism was operationalized by arrests occurring post-program; the recidivism rate for the entire sample was 35%. For MDPP completers the rate was 30% compared to 70% for non-completers. In the fully adjusted logistic regression, MDPP completers were significantly less likely to be arrested post-program (aOR = 0.19, p < .001). Race (1=Black; aOR = 1.61), sex (1=Female; aOR = .62) and age (aOR = .98), as well as a drug offense MDPP charge (aOR = 1.60) were associated with post-program arrest. Second, recidivism was operationalized by any conviction that occurred post-program; the recidivism rate was 10.7%. For MDPP completers the rate was 8.1% compared to 26.9% of non-completers. In the second adjusted model, individuals who completed MDPP were significantly less likely to be sentenced to time in jail or prison post-program (aOR = -1.30) compared to non-completers.

Discussion: Prosecutor-led diversion programs, like the MDPP, hold considerable promise as a light-touch intervention for individuals at early stages of criminal justice involvement. Most of the sample was not arrested or convicted for a new offense up to seven years after involvement in MDPP. Individuals who were able to complete the MDPP demonstrated significantly lower rates of recidivism. However, further research is needed to examine to what extent these outcomes are racially equitable. Based on these findings, deferred prosecution programs should be considered as an effective diversion from further entrenchment in the criminal justice system, as well to avoid the collateral consequences associated with a criminal record.