City council to consider pre-trial diversion program - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

City council to consider pre-trial diversion program

The council will discuss pre-trial diversion program feasibility Thursday night. The council will discuss pre-trial diversion program feasibility Thursday night.

Huntsville City Council will discuss a potential pre-trial diversion program Thursday night.

Basically, the program is designed to keep non-violent offenders out of jail and instead puts them through a diversion program with counseling.

The program generally saves tax payer money by housing fewer people in jail and having offenders pay fees and costs associated for the treatment.

Pre-trial diversion programs are also designed to keep people from becoming repeat offenders through counseling services and community service.

Those arrested for DUI, minor thefts and other misdemeanor offenses would likely qualify for the program. Admittance is on a case by case basis.

Any person deemed to be a threat to the safety or well-being of the community would not be eligible.

WAFF 48 legal analyst Mark McDaniel believes the program is a win-win.

"It's not a get out of jail free card at all. It is a situation where you have to jump through hoops. You go through your rehabilitation program without taxpayers paying $30-40,000 a day to pay for that," said McDaniel.

District Attorney Bob Broussard highly recommends it to the city. He said many first-time offenders have a lesser chance of being repeat offenders if they are given counseling. He said the pre-trial program is their last chance.

"Next time they come through the system, they are not looking at diversion. You'll know the true story then and there'll be something of harsher consequences waiting for them," said Broussard.

Some say the negatives may be that the offenders would be walking the streets, but proponents of the measure said any person who is considered a threat whatsoever to the public would not be a candidate for the program.

According to the Madison County District Attorney's website, their pre-trial program has returned nearly $640,000 in restitution to victims of theft since 2003. It has also collected more than $238,000 in court costs.

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