By Renea Wickman
Last Tuesday, the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches held a community forum with the San Bernardino County Public Defender and District Attorney’s office. The topic of discussion was the diversion program for non-violent misdemeanor offenders. It was implemented as an effort to reduce the case loads of misdemeanors by upwards as 25 percent.
The diversion programs is a four month program at a cost of $400 run by the private company Corrective Solutions. To qualify for the program you must be charged with a misdemeanor, have no prior record, live in Rancho Cucamonga, pay $400 for the Corrective Solutions program and volunteer for the program. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the program last month.
The issue that concerned the African American community included a number of things. The issues at hand are the program’s cost of $400 run by a private corporation; other possible costs could be incurred for drug testing, alcohol and drug classes, anger management classes and other classes if suggested by the Judge, DA or Public Defender to complete the program. The DA says the cost of $400 to low income families is on a sliding scale, but not the additional classes that may be required. In addition, concerns that the program only applies to Rancho Cucamonga residents and those who have no prior criminal record were also raised because the African American community has a disproportionate number of community members with prior convictions. The DA also mentioned that it is at the discretion of the DA and Public Defender if a person with a non violent record can be allowed to voluntarily enter the program. For this reason the concern was that fair discretion is rarely given to an African American in the criminal court system. Lastly, the concern was that the community members of the City of San Bernardino would best benefit from such a program. However, the DA stated that Rancho Cucamonga had the most misdemeanors of any city in San Bernardino County. The IECAAC asked the Public Defender and District Attorney’s representatives to include racial stats of all qualified cited individuals weather they volunteered for the program or not.
If the program is completed the individual would not have any record of the charge what so ever on their record. The DA added that the program is a pilot program and reviewed every six months and will last 3 years. If you have more questions or concerns about the Diversion Program you can contact the San Bernardino County Public Defender and District Attorney’s Offices.