Broomfield and DA office unite to create municipal diversion program

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Ten Broomfield teens have been referred to the city and county’s new municipal diversion program since the beginning of October.

For the staff of the diversion program, these are 10 residents who were diverted from the criminal justice system and instead received services on an as-needed basis.

Broomfield Director of Diversity, Equity and Organizational Development Vanessa Oldham-Barton said the creation of a municipal diversion program has long been a subject of discussion in Broomfield. When she took the reins of the newly created position last year, she said starting the diversion program was one of the areas she wanted to focus on in her first year.

The program is designed for people charged with low-intensity crimes. Instead of putting the accused through the criminal justice system, they have the option of going through diversion and graduating without a criminal record.

The Broomfield program began with a team of city and police employees who began researching what programs are available and what other municipalities are doing. The team eventually connected with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which presides over Broomfield.

“Everything went well,” Oldham-Barton said. “It took us probably a year to meet, to figure things out and to land on what made the most sense and which was easiest for us to access as well. … It was kind of like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment. We have always had access. It has been a very good partnership.

Dean Bennett, Project Specialist in Development, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is responsible for following participants through the program and educating the Broomfield Police Department on the program. He explained that the diversion program is at the officer’s discretion, but it is important to give officers an option other than writing someone a ticket. Certain conditions must be met, such as the victim must approve, the perpetrator must be motivated and also admit that he did something wrong.

“The consequences are pretty immediate, compared to the legal system,” Bennett continued. “What works best for minors. Typically, they will get their diversion meeting within two weeks, usually eight days. They can complete everything on a municipal charge within four months. If you go through the court system it can be very slow, and in the meantime they might get into more trouble because their needs are not being met.

Provide the needs for success

Diversion is not punitive, he explained, but rather a needs-based approach.

“And they are looking at the whole family and what the child needs to be successful instead of just giving them consequences,” he said.

These enveloping services are crucial, added Oldham-Barton.

“I hope this will prevent children from going further in the juvenile court system or the adult system,” she said. “It reflects Broomfield’s values ​​as a whole, just making sure we provide these services and approach things from a needs-based (approach) by meeting people where they are. “

The 10 program participants are all in different phases of the month-long study program. They spend approximately two to three hours per week with diversion staff, participating in activities such as anger management, counseling sessions and restorative justice, tailored to what would best serve the participant.

The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which serves Adams and Broomfield counties, has already implemented a diversion program, which prosecutor Brian Mason considers one of the best programs in the country. Instead of Broomfield creating its own diversion program, the prosecutor’s office offered to expand its diversion program to include municipal-level offenses in Broomfield free of charge.

The majority of cases are drug-related or municipal fighting, said Chris Hopper, communications director for the 17th judicial DA.

Mason is committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, a concept that young people who commit crime in school often find it difficult to leave the system. For him, the municipal diversion program contributes to disrupting the flow of this pipeline

“I hope that we will drastically reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system,” he said, “and that we will be able to make the community safer and the criminal justice system better in the process. process.

Oldham-Barton pointed out that the program’s problems were still being resolved. But even if the program helps a person, it is worth it, she said.

Prior to taking this role, she spent years working at the Workforce Center in Broomfield, where she said she saw what an obstacle having a criminal record can be.

“It’s definitely a barrier to employment,” she said. “If we can eliminate that – teach a lesson – and continue to make them be productive.” The worst thing (that can happen) is having a minor little thing that leads to a bigger thing that maybe leads to incarceration. It impacts the community as a whole and prevents people from contributing to society which is the last thing we want. “

I hope to provide more opportunities for fun

While it is difficult to quantify the success of the program, Oldham-Bartons and Bennett’s would one day like to see the program expand and provide diversion opportunities for other types of low-intensity crime.

“There are some things that may never be measurable, other than maybe they just haven’t come back,” Bennett said. “But maybe this is going to be the turning point in some children’s lives, if that makes sense.”

When presenting the program to Broomfield City Council in September, Mason said his office’s diversion program had an 85% success rate, meaning that 85% of graduates do not re-enter the criminal justice system. over the next three years.

City Councilor Deven Shaff asked how much it would cost to not have a diversion program.

“There is no doubt that the statistics show very clearly that preventive measures are much more profitable than sending people to jail or jail,” Mason said. “The cost of keeping someone in jail for just one year is $ 30,000 per person. … When we can prevent someone from entering the criminal justice system, it is exponentially less expensive for the community.

For Oldham-Barton, the birth of the program would not have been possible without the help of several people from different departments – the city council, the city and county director, the chief of police, the city attorney and the municipal judge. When everyone is on board with a program designed to improve a community, it’s a given.

“Because they can see the potential and understand the consequences. Without something like that, there is a chance that someone will fall through the cracks or get caught up in the system. If there had been a little prevention, it could have changed their lives, ”she said. “We are extremely lucky. Broomfield is one of those unique places, where we’re still small enough to really come together and create these impactful moments.


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