(Washington, DC) – Facing strong opposition from thousands of individuals and organizations, including TASC, the federal government withdrew in May its proposal to require disclosure of participation in a criminal justice diversion program on federal employment applications. The proposal,
which was posted in February for comment by the Office of Personnel Management,
would have represented an expansion of current requirements to disclose
Criminal justice diversion programs—whether led by law enforcement, prosecutors, or courts—offer eligible individuals alternatives
to the traditional trajectory into and through the justice system. These
programs first emerged decades ago to address overburdened
court dockets and recognize that traditional case handling wasn’t necessarily serving the best interests of society or the individuals directly involved, to deal with increasing
incarceration costs and high numbers of individuals in need of treatment,
and to prevent recidivism.
Their emergence acknowledged the reality that a majority of sentenced people in
jail or state prisons met criteria for substance use disorders, and half had indications of a mental health
disorder. These conditions, which often co-occur with each other, typically
are also accompanied by an array of other health and social service needs that
can be better addressed in the community while still holding individuals
accountable for their actions.
Diversion programs not only can help people access needed services, but also mitigate the barriers associated with justice system involvement. In particular, a criminal record—even for arrests that don’t result in convictions—can significantly exacerbate difficulties in securing employment, housing support, educational financial aid, and more. Diversion programs usually
result in dropped charges or otherwise prevent a conviction on record when
requirements are met.
TASC, along with more than 2,700
other individuals and organizations, expressed strong opposition to the proposal,
through comments submitted to the federal government:
“We strongly oppose this proposed change because it would undermine a central goal of diversionary programs—the prevention of harmful and long-lasting collateral consequences, including barriers to gainful employment, that result from criminal conviction records and stand in the way of successful rehabilitation and community participation.…This rule change would undercut the will of prosecuting attorneys and courts operating diversion programs by compelling applicants to disclose their participation in them. It will effectively block the path to rehabilitation and employment for individuals, and harm not only them but also their families and communities.”
“We join justice advocates across the country in lauding this reversal,” said TASC Policy Director Laura Brookes. “Diversion programs are critical in preventing the long-lasting collateral consequences of criminal records, and they are crucial in helping people access recovery services and reengage in positive ways with their family and community.”