(FLORENCE, AZ) - In 2022, more than 450 people completed the Diversion Program, earning them an opportunity for a second chance.
The Diversion Program returned in-house to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office in 2017 and provides a path for some defendants to earn the ability to avoid a potential conviction, while learning tools to prevent similar problems from reappearing later in life.
The mission of the diversion program is to “…reduce recidivism, advance justice, and promote community safety through the use of evidence-based programs and effective community supervision tailored to the risks and needs of each individual.”
In 2022, 483 total cases were closed out, making for an overall success rate of 85%.
“I started drinking [and] I shouldn’t have been drinking,” said Casimiro, who lives in Coolidge. “Doing drugs. I shouldn’t have been doing drugs.”
Casimiro detailed a rough 2022, with drugs and alcohol ultimately adding to the problem.
“How far was I? I was below the rock,” he said. “Not rock bottom. I was way under the rock.”
Casimiro said he spent four days in jail after an incident where he pushed his adult son and authorities were called.
Facing potential charges including Assault and Disorderly Conduct, Casimiro was referred to the Diversion Program.
“I was lucky to be in…Diversion,” he said.
Throughout the program, Casimiro has taken part in several classes, including drug abuse and anger management.
“It taught me how to console myself, console my anger,” he said.
Diversion officers assess any underlying causes that contribute to a defendant’s behavior and assign a list of requirements accordingly.
“We want people [to] understand what they did [was] wrong and work to rectify the situation,” said Senior Diversion Officer Nicole Buccellato. “In return, the county attorney’s office dismisses it from their record.”
Buccellato regularly meets with defendants going through the program.
“Success looks like a defendant that has come in just…deflated, don’t know how they got in the situation that they were in, they really don’t know how to pick themselves up and throughout the program you see them kind of finding their purpose again,” Buccellato said.
If a defendant does not successfully complete the program, prosecution can resume on their case.
“I like being able to help make a difference,” Buccellato said. “People make mistakes…what I like doing is giving those people a second chance.”
She also noted the progress Casimiro has made along the way after initially being hesitant to delve into the program.
“The more he started applying himself at his classes, I could see him…open up and you could tell he started trusting the system and trusting the program,” she said.
Casimiro pointed to dramatic improvement in his life and said he has started working again and regained his CDL.
“In less than a year I would say I’m at 80, 90 percent better than I ever was,” he said. “I think I am better now than before all this.”
He looks forward to the future.
“I miss my family, that’s what I have learned, how much I miss them,” he said. “I need to get back with them.”