Felony Pretrial Intervention: An Alternative to Prosecution


In July 2015, Maricopa County prosecutors began to offer certain low-level offenders the chance to avoid traditional court prosecution in exchange for successfully completing a cognitive treatment program aimed at getting them back on track to become productive members of the community. The Felony Pretrial Intervention Program requires that offenders admit to their criminal conduct, agree to make full restitution to their victims, and complete their treatment program within a one-year timeframe as directed by a case manager.

Eligibility for the Felony Pretrial Intervention Program is determined on a case-by-case, defendant-by-defendant basis and is intended for offenders with minimal or no previous criminal history. Selection criteria include the nature of the charges, the amount of loss caused by the offender, input from the victims and evidence-based risk assessment tools. Violent offenders and those with significant criminal histories are not eligible for this program.

Participants who successfully complete the program can have their charges dismissed, while those who fail to comply with the program requirements will face traditional criminal prosecution. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Defendants will face the full range of consequences if they fail to apply themselves fully to the terms of the program. Such consequences could include probation, jail time, fines and even prison.

The core curriculum for the cognitive treatment element of the program is the “Thinking for a Change” Program, which is widely used by criminal justice agencies around the country, including the Maricopa County Probation Department and the Maricopa County Jail.

The Felony Pretrial Intervention Program is funded by individual defendants on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. This is consistent with research that has demonstrated that individuals are more successful in treatment programs if they have a financial stake in the outcome. The program is also assessed and evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that the primary goal of reducing recidivism is being achieved and that justice is being done in individual cases.

The goal of this program is consistent with MCAO’s efforts to achieve outcomes that hold offenders accountable and reduce recidivism while also managing taxpayer funds more efficiently.