Active Projects

Measuring Impact of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs Across Three Sites in the Midwestern United States

Principal Investigator: Matt Epperson, PhD, MSW – Smart Decarceration Project, University of Chicago

Funder: Joyce Foundation

Study Period: 2019-2022


Prosecutor-led diversion programs (PLDPs) are an innovative front-end criminal justice intervention that have the potential to enhance public safety and reduce violence, curtail the use of mass incarceration, and address inequities in the criminal legal system. PLDPs divert people charged with a variety of criminal offenses from traditional court processing if they agree to participate in program requirements in return for dismissal of their charge(s). To date, only a handful of studies have been conducted on PLDPs, and little is known about how PLDPs could be leveraged and expanded to include higher-risk, more complex cases in order to address issues of violence and racial disparities.

The overall goal of our recently funded study from the Joyce Foundation is to examine how PLDPs can help to reverse existing racial disparities in the criminal legal system, as well as improve outcomes for young adults (age 25 and younger). Our work will involve careful examination of an array of innovative PLDPs in use at three sites in the Midwestern United States. Additionally, this study involves an in-depth examination of a newly developed gun diversion program and its ability to reduce gun violence and increase public safety. The study will consist of rigorous longitudinal quantitative analyses, intervention science, and use of qualitative research methods to better understand stakeholder experiences and program impact. Findings from this work can help to inform the meaningful expansion of prosecutorial diversion programming throughout the United States.