By Kevin Kolbus, Marion County Prosecutor's Office
The Marion County Felony Diversion Program began operation in December 2017 and provides evidence based programming designed to improve an offender’s quality of life, reduce recidivism and break the cycle of criminal activity. All offenders accepted into the program are placed on pre-trial probation supervised by the program’s probation officer of Marion County Probation Department. The program utilizes evidence-based programming, which is specifically tailored to address an offender’s criminogenic needs and eliminate barriers that may lead to the commission of future crimes. Upon successful completion of the program, the charges pending against the participant are dismissed.
The target population for the Felony Diversion Program are offenders categorized as moderate- to high-risk on the Indiana Risk Assessment System (IRAS), however, the guiding principle is whether an offender has criminogenic needs that can be effectively addressed with the evidence-based programming provided by the Felony Diversion Program. Criminogenic needs are dynamic risk factors that are amenable to change in an offender’s life that are directly related to recidivism.
During the program, participants have access to many of the resources and services offered by the Marion County Probation Office. While these services are beneficial, many participants face additional barriers outside the treatment area of the probation department. In addition to services offered by probation, the Felony Diversion Program has enlisted the help of community partners with the hopes of achieving broader wrap-around services to assist participants during the program and beyond. Some of the services provided by community partners include, but are not limited to, financial literacy training and coaching, employment services, housing assistance, relapse prevention and mentoring services and educational services. Additionally, many participants will be referred to Moral Reconation Therapy, which is a cognitive behavioral therapy tailored to improve a participant’s moral reasoning and decision-making by helping participants acknowledge and understand that there are consequences to their behaviors and actions, ultimately leading to better decision-making.
Acceptance into the Felony Diversion Program is made on a case-by-case basis and at the sole discretion of the program’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. Some of the factors taken into consideration when determining whether to accept an offender into the Felony Diversion Program include, but are not limited to, the nature and severity of the pending offense, the probability that the offender will cooperate and benefit from the program, whether the resources and services available through the program are appropriate for the applicant and, if applicable, whether the victim approves of the applicant’s participation.
An offender is not eligible for the Felony Diversion Program if they have been convicted of a major felony violent offense or sex offense within the past 15 years, have an active warrant, have multiple pending felony cases, or are currently on probation, parole, or serving an executed sentence. The Felony Diversion Program does not accept the following offenses: domestic battery, sex offenses, strangulation, kidnapping, dealing offenses, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, OVWI, or cases involving a firearm.
Commonly referred and accepted charges include theft, auto theft, forgery, battery, battery on a public safety official, resisting law enforcement and habitual traffic violators. Cases involving a victim require victim approval and, if applicable, the full payment of restitution.
To refer a defendant for consideration in the Felony Diversion Program, attorneys must send a completed referral form along with the charging information, probable cause affidavit and criminal history to firstname.lastname@example.org. Felony Diversion Referral forms can be found in many of the Level 6 Felony Courtrooms. Additionally, attorneys may contact the program’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Kevin Kolbus, to request an electronic referral form via email at Kevin.Kolbus@indy.gov. The program’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney will review the referral packet and, if acceptable, have the program’s probation officer schedule an IRAS assessment for the defendant. All applicants must submit to an IRAS risk assessment to be considered for acceptance into the Felony Diversion Program. After reviewing the referral information and IRAS scores, the program’s Deputy Prosecutor will inform the applicant’s attorney of the decision and, if accepted, tender a plea agreement.
The Felony Diversion Program consists of three phases or stages and generally lasts between 12 to 24 months. The exact duration of the program is dependent on the participant’s criminogenic needs and the level of compliance with their individualized case management plan/plea agreement. For additional information, please contact the Felony Diversion Program’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Kevin Kolbus,at email@example.com.
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