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TAD projects have been established by counties and tribes using one of two models: pre-trial diversion or adult drug court.
Both models share common features, such as basing treatment decisions on risk and needs assessments, and using evidence-based practices that have been proven effective at increasing public safety and reducing recidivism; but differ as to at what point in the criminal justice process the decision is made to safely divert an offender intro treatment (pre-trial or post-conviction) and who makes the decision to divert an offender (District Attorney or court).
In programs using the pre-trial diversion model, the District Attorney or court agrees not to prosecute a non-violent offender in exchange for the offender fulfilling requirements (like substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, job readiness training, etc.) outlined by the District Attorney in a deferred prosecution agreement. If the offender successfully completes the required treatment and other conditions, charges may be dismissed entirely or reduced. If the offender fails to successfully complete treatment or meet required conditions, the criminal justice process reconvenes and the District Attorney proceeds with charges.
In programs using the adult drug court model, once a non-violent offender has been convicted of a crime, the judge makes a sentencing recommendation. The court may offer an offender the choice of entering mandatory substance abuse and other treatment services and complying with other court ordered requirements in lieu of imposing sentencing recommendations. If the offender chooses to enter treatment and comply with specified conditions, the court monitors the offender’s progress and may impose graduated sanctions or incentives, dependent upon the offender’s ongoing compliance with the court-imposed conditions. If an offender fails to comply with the court ordered requirements, he/she is automatically returned to the court’s original non-diversionary sentencing recommendations.
All TAD projects share common elements. Projects are required to use evidence-based practices, or interventions that have been shown to be effective by research. TAD projects conduct a risk and needs assessment on all offenders. The research is quite clear, supervision and treatment levels must match an offender’s level of risk to reoffend, and the needs assessment provides focus on those specific needs that relate most closely to criminal behavior that result in the greatest reductions of recidivism. The most effective use of limited resources is to focus on the needs of high risk offenders, offenders most likely to recidivate. Research indicates that focusing supervision and treatment resource on lower risk offenders can lead to wasted resources and may increase recidivism rates.
All offenders participating in TAD projects are provided with substance abuse treatment, drug testing, and monitoring. In addition, TAD programs have incorporated consistent monitoring and reporting components across programs that are essential to evaluation of program effectiveness.
Depending on the needs of the individual offender and the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement or the guidelines/conditions of the sentence, a case manager connects offenders with resources to help them succeed. This may include enrolling the offender in a substance abuse treatment program; education or job training program, or parenting classes; assisting with resume development or job searching; or other assistance based on the individual needs of the offender. The case manager acts as a liaison between the offender, TAD Advisory Board, and District Attorney/court, keeping them involved at all stages as the offender progresses through treatment and monitoring.
While the overarching structure of TAD is consistent between projects, TAD also provides flexibility for local criminal justice professionals to design a structured approach to meet the unique criminal justice needs of the community.
Part of the underlying philosophy of TAD is to allow for local difference, local input, and local creativity. TAD provides an opportunity for professionals across the local criminal justice community to look at which offender groups are likely to be the more responsive to available services and supervision, and how existing resource are best maximized. While the overarching principles of TAD apply in every project, there is variation among projects on program model used, length and intensity of treatment and monitoring, and program target population.
Each TAD project has a local TAD Advisory Board, which establishes policies, protocols, operating practices, and local program oversight. The Advisory Boards are multi-disciplinary – members include District Attorneys, judges, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, probation and parole agents, substance abuse treatment providers, mental health treatment providers, and social service providers. Some TAD Advisory Boards play a more active role in the day-to-day management of projects, and some review cases to determine if an offender meets eligibility requirements of the local TAD project and if the capacity exists to meet an individual offender’s treatment/support needs.
Since 2007, the TAD Program has consisted of approximately $1 million per year supporting seven projects operating in nine counties. Since July 1, 2013, the Legislature has increased funding for the TAD program by 300% to a total of $4 million per year. This dramatic increase in funding has allowed the Department of Justice to greatly expand the participation in the TAD Program by counties and tribes. Distributed through a highly competitive application process, the Department expects to support as many as 35 county and tribal TAD projects across the state. With the latest expansion in the spring of 2014, it’s anticipated that all geographic regions of the state will host TAD projects.
The TAD Program has a proven track record and this expansion of the program will enhance the benefits to the state of Wisconsin through increased public safety, reduced recidivism and increased savings.