The Fourteenth Judicial District Office of the District Attorney offers an innovative state-of-the-art pre-trial diversionary referral and educational corrective training program. This pre-charge initiative alternative sanctions program is the first of its kind in Calcasieu Parish. The program's unique features set it apart from other traditional pre-trial intervention programs throughout our state.
The program enables citizens of Calcasieu Parish to simultaneously reduce the ever- increasing crime rate and address the present "corrections crisis" while taking major steps toward improving our entire criminal justice system. The program has a positive impact by emphasizing rehabilitation to reduce recidivism. It affords citizens the opportunity to address real human needs both for the victim and the offender. The program also reinforces public safety by offering rehabilitation when possible and incarceration when necessary.
Programs offered are designed to meet the needs of the community in regards to family and prosecutorial concerns relative to certain non-violent first offenders. The department exists primarily as a means to deter future criminal or disorderly behavior of these offenders, as well as:
- Minimize loss to the victim(s) of these crimes and ensure complete/adequate payment of restitution to the victim(s)
- Provide educational and rehabilitative training for these offenders
- Protect the community through close supervision of those accused following arrest until final disposition in each case. Reduce the rate of recidivism/repeat offenders.
- Serve the courts through the reduction of dockets. Focus time, money and man hours toward prosecution of more serious crimes.
Most persons entering the criminal justice system share many of the following traits:
- Low Self-Esteem
- Negative Attitudes
- Lack of Supporting Environment
- Lack of Inter-personal Skills
- Lack of Goal Setting
- Variety of Negative Influences
Our instructional and behavioral corrective training approach enables individuals to examine personal values and attitudes. Each participant learns to organize and manage personal time and resources to reduce deviant behavior. It affords them an opportunity to get an in-depth look at the principles of human behavior, including their hierarchy of needs, personal values, establishing goals, planning and behaviors necessary to achieve personal success without having to engage in criminal activity. Participants receive coordinated assistance in job placement, educational and vocational referrals, personal as well as group counseling and referrals to other community agencies appropriate to their needs. Highly trained professional counselors teach an eight hour course which utilizes both instructional and therapeutic approaches. The entire course is conducted in four two-hour sessions, one per week. Individual sessions are both didactic and experimental while volunteer community professionals are utilized during three separate segments. The results of all contact with each participant are kept in an attempt to closely monitor and supervise their individual progress and case status.
Each participant is required to attend a corrective training course, provide community service, pay full restitution and enroll in an educational institution or G.E.D program or actively seek or maintain employment. Participants may also need to acquire help in any other problem area, therefore each completes a substance abuse and psychological assessment. Referrals will be made to community agencies which provide services relative to the participant's needs. These services will be at the participant's expense. Participants are also required to sign a Release and Hold Harmless Agreement as well as a Constitutional Rights Questionnaire prior to admittance. Participants must attend all meetings and keep all other appointments that are mutually agreed upon with the program coordinator. A subsequent arrest or violation of program rules will result in the participant's case being returned to the appropriate section of the District Attorney's Office for immediate prosecution.
Because the presumption of innocence applies to the period between arrest and trial, program participation is completely voluntary and the right not to participate is explained to all potential participants. Taking this into consideration, the program does allow the participants to remain in the community with limited disruption to family life, employment and/or school while attending mandatory corrective training classes and fulfilling community service hours and other program requirements. Files which meet specific criteria are referred to the program following a review process by staff members. After the offender's prior criminal record is checked, the victim (s) sign consent forms, arresting officers are notified, and an intake screening appointment is scheduled. Orientation to the program and a general interview take place before the participant makes a decision to participate or go to court. The final decision as to the acceptability of an offender into the program is made by the designated section chief upon review of all program requirements.
An enrollment fee is required in order to help defray additional expenses in the application of program services. Assessing participants a program fee also serves as a means of holding them accountable and showing responsibility for their own actions. Fees are contingent upon the initial assessment findings, the offense for which the individual has been accused, and the length of program participation. Payments are made by money orders only. This charge is separate from, and in addition to, restitution owed to the victim(s). Additional revenues generated are used to fund our Victim Assistance Program.
LENGTH OF PROGRAM
The exact duration of participation is dependent upon the seriousness of the offense, the attitude of the participant, and how well the program goals have been met as determined by the individuals progress and assessment. Active participation may last twelve to twenty-four months. Participants must be employed or enrolled in an educational institution, and restitution must be paid in full before they can be recommended for satisfactory termination.
COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Representatives from various agencies will serve one year terms on a community advisory committee. Each committee member will attend quarterly meetings where they will give input and provide necessary feedback for evaluation purposes to ensure quality services.
(Changing Attitudes and Decisions Through Experimental Training)
This innovative program component operates in conjunction with our local National Guard and Y.M.C.A. Through development of a unique "community partnership" supported by the Louisiana National Guard Drug Demand Reduction Program, the Y.M.C.A., the Calcasieu Police Jury and Juvenile Court, youthful first offenders are given an opportunity to learn self-discipline, as well as addressing the other traits characteristic of those entering the criminal justice system. They are able to interact with local Guard personnel and volunteers who have assumed a "mentor" status during a structured military style weekend "bootcamp" environment.