FLORENCE – More than 1,400 people have successfully completed the Diversion Program since it returned to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office in 2017.
The Diversion Program 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.”
One recent participant who successfully completed the program is Jarrett, a man who lives in Florence.
“I think I’ve only had one traffic ticket,” he said. “I’ve never been in trouble before.”
That changed one day last year, after an incident left Jarrett facing an assault charge.
“[I was] terrified,” he said. “Terrified.”
Jarrett feared going to jail.
“The true gravity of the situation I put myself into became real,” he said.
Jarrett became eligible for the Diversion Program, which consists of a variety of requirements, such as treatment and/or community service, tailored to each individual participant.
“I just felt like I probably deserved jail but I don’t think jail would have done me a lot of good,” Jarrett said.
The Diversion Program encourages positive behavior change in order to deter any possible future incidents.
“Not everybody is eligible for Diversion,” said Diversion Officer Nicole Buccellato. “Normally, it’s first time offenders that have a chance of, once their record is clean, living a productive adult life.”
Buccellato worked with Jarrett to come up with a plan for his individual case.
In general, Buccellato said the goal is to try and find the root cause of what sparked a particular incident.
“A lot of factors go into that, what happened on that night, what do they admit to,” she said. “They could have a substance abuse problem where they only possibly…hit their partner or break things when they’re drunk. So, rather than send them straight to [domestic violence] classes, we may have them do a substance abuse class first.”
Jarrett was given a plan to follow.
“She came to the conclusion that my drinking was the catalyst for the problem that I put myself into,” Jarrett said. “Which, at that time, I thought was a bunch of crap.”
Jarrett said while hesitant at first, he warmed up to the Diversion Program and was enrolled in a recovery program and attended private counseling.
“To my surprise, when I put my nose down and called the alcohol program, it surprised me how intense it was,” Jarrett said. “It made me immediately realize, by talking to the people, that I did have an issue going on.”
Buccellato noted Jarrett’s success while going through the Diversion Program.
“I don’t think he missed one treatment,” she said. “Never was late on one payment.”
The Diversion Program can also include community service. A back-to-school drive several weeks ago netted dozens of backpacks and other supplies provided by participants. The supplies then went to the Casa Grande Alliance, which distributes those items to the community.
Buccellato looks forward to helping each participant she meets become successful in the program.
“I’ve lived in Pinal County my whole entire life,” she said. “This is my neighborhood, this is my area and these people are in this county, which affects all of us.”
Jarrett successfully completed the Diversion Program and has advice for others who might be as hesitant as he was at first.
“Get honest with yourself, please,” he said. “You didn’t get into that predicament, or whatever predicament you’re in, for no reason at all.”
It is rare for defendants to be unsuccessful in completing the Diversion Program. Since 2017, prosecution has only resumed on 292 cases.
Jarrett is looking forward to his future.
“Back to my old life, minus the drinking,” Jarrett said. “Got my wife back, got my life back, my son is happy, I’m good.”