YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is changing its policy to ensure more cases, particularly those involving defendants of color, are diverted out of the criminal justice system.
This change comes after a public transparency portal revealed a racial disparity in cases sent to the prosecutor’s office, the DA’s office said. The Commons portal was launched on April 6.
The county data is validated and posted by a third-party company and not controlled by the DA’s office.
The office will no longer automatically disqualify someone from being referred to a diversion program based on their criminal history, the DA’s office explained in a release. Diversion allows an offender to participate in a program that helps remedy the behavior leading to the original arrest.
Offenders who complete the program will avoid a conviction or criminal record, according to the release. The policy change is expected to increase diversions by 15-20%.
The Commons data portal shows us clear trends that could contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We can see in the data that people of color are disparately represented in cases referred to our office from our local law enforcement agencies. Because criminal history is one of a number of factors determining diversion eligibility, people of color could be disproportionately denied the opportunity for their cases to be diverted before trial. … This criminal history has a ripple effect that impacts how these individuals’ cases are handled by the justice system. In the past, people with prior records never made it to the starting line. Now, when my charging deputies review most cases to determine diversion eligibility, they won’t be focusing on the person’s criminal history.Jeff Reisig, Yolo County District Attorney
Reisig said, down the road, data from Commons will show if the policy change has made a difference.
The DA’s office said the policy change is the first of many driven by data from the Commons portal.
Offenders accused of domestic violence, driving under the influence, sexual assault or hate crimes are not eligible for the diversion program.