The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has continued to be among the most progressive in implementing and developing initiatives related to alternative sentencing and diversionary programs. Data suggests that those who enter the criminal court system for non-violent offenses often benefit significantly from these more rehabilitative options. The Philadelphia criminal courts now have an Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, DUI Treatment Court, Domestic Violence Diversion Program, and many others.
Goals for Diversionary Court Programs
Lawmakers and leaders at the state and county levels in Pennsylvania have tried to find alternatives to the traditional criminal system that often results in the incarceration of offenders. These programs seek to hold offenders accountable while identifying and addressing “underlying problems.” The majority of the programs have also shown to reduce recidivism and operational costs while increasing efficiency.
Future Forward Program for Felony Offenders
In 2015, The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office launched a pilot program for pre-trial felony diversion known as Future Forward. This provides non-violent felony offenders the opportunity to avoid incarceration and pursue an education. This is the first initiative of its kind in the U.S. The goal is to expose offenders to post-secondary education and allow them to have their criminal record expunged.
Future Forward is designed for defendants that are at least 24-years-old, are Philadelphia residents, and have either a high school diploma or GED equivalent. It is geared for first-time felony offenders that have been charged with a non-violent crime. There is also a requirement that the defendant has no more than one prior misdemeanor conviction. These individuals will need to pass the entrance examination at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) and be able to qualify for student financial aid.
Case Disposition and Educational Participation
Once admitted to Future Forward, the criminal proceedings are deferred. Most participants take roughly one year to complete the program. Those admitted will take three classes at CCP for three successive semesters. These individuals are also joined by offenders that have been released from incarceration participating in the Reentry Support Project.
In addition to coursework, there are requirements to attend activities and development programming that focuses on professional development and personal responsibility. There is a reporting requirement to a supervising judge that monitors academic performance. Over these three semesters, the participant will complete a minimum of 27 academic credits. Those who satisfy these requirements are eligible for having their criminal case dismissed.
Facts Regarding Educational Benefits
- Americans that obtain an associate's degree earn approximately 51% more annually compared to those with only a high school education
- Americans that obtain a bachelor's degree earn roughly 134% more annually than those with only a high school education
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that those with advanced professional degrees have more than three times the earnings of those with a high school education
- Those with a college degree are far less likely to be unemployed
Experienced Defense Attorney for Misdemeanor and Felony Cases
Have you been arrested for allegedly committing a criminal offense in the Philadelphia region? Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been providing effective legal defense for clients for many years. He will ensure your rights are protected and aggressively pursue a positive outcome. For a complimentary case consultation, contact the office today at (215) 535-5353.