“If [a diversion program is] offered at the pre-arrest stage, it frees up space in jail,” says Anderson. “It minimizes the administrative burdens that officers face when they file charges; it reduces the cost for prosecution and court proceedings; and of course it gives the offender an opportunity to have a completely clean record.”
The diversion program itself is nothing new — it’s been around long before this new policy. And data from the district attorney’s office shows that more than 90 percent of those who took advantage of the program did not re-offend, a much higher rate than found in those who didn’t attend the program.
Anderson says that only the first offense will be decriminalized under the new policy, but may change in the near future.
“After I saw these [stats], I said, hey, let’s look at what the recidivism rate would be for a second offender or a third offender,” Anderson said. “So we’re going to look at that.”
Harris County includes Texas’ most populous city, Houston. Overall, Harris County has a population of over 4 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report.