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Program Profile: Rapid Intervention Community Court (Chittenden County, Vt.)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on April 03, 2019

Program Summary

This is a prosecutor-led diversion program for nonviolent defendants, which is designed to decrease the number of convictions and reduce recidivism while improving administrative efficiency and cost effectiveness. The program is rated No Effects. The program had a statistically significant effect on reducing the likelihood of conviction, but there was no statistically significant effect on recidivism for program participants, compared with comparison participants.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC) project is a prosecutor-led diversion program for nonviolent defendants in Chittenden County, Vt. Prosecutors use a mixed-filing stage approach, either pre-filing (before charges are filed with the court) or post-filing (after the court process begins), but before disposition. The main goals are to use a restorative justice approach to decrease the number of convictions, reduce recidivism, improve administrative efficiency, reduce cost, limit collateral consequences for defendants (e.g., conviction, incarceration), and increase defendant accountability.

Target Population/Eligibility
The program is open to felony, misdemeanor, and citation defendants, but mainly targets defendants with low-level charges who have been arrested or cited for nonviolent offenses that appear to result from untreated addiction or mental illness. Participants may not have a history of sex offenses, offenses involving bodily harm, gang offenses, commercial drug dealing, or gun or domestic violence charges. Participants may also not be living in a residential treatment facility while enrolled in the program. Depending on case specifics, some participants are enrolled prior to–and instead of–the filing of the court case, whereas other participants are enrolled after the court case has been filed.

Program Components
RICC uses a wraparound approach in its provision of services to participants. Participants are assessed and connected to services and restorative justice programs within the community. The Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), a formal, validated risk-assessment tool, identifies the appropriate individualized service mandates for each participant. Community-based supports and services typically include substance abuse or mental health treatment in an individual or group-based therapy setting.

Participants typically receive two required assignments and have 90 days to complete them in order to be compliant. Assignments may include an accountability component (e.g., taking responsibility for the crime), victim restitution, community service, substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, or other services as necessary. Participants who are compliant do not go to court, whereas participants who are not compliant are required to go through the traditional court process. RICC also emphasizes a restorative justice approach, through use of restorative justice conferences, which allows defendants, victims, and/or community members to tell their stories and have a voice in the process.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Overall, Rempel and colleagues (2018) found mixed results. Although there was a statistically significant reduction in conviction rates for the Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC) defendants, there was no statistically significant difference between groups in the number of arrests at the 2-year follow up. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests the program did not have the intended effects.

Recidivism (Any Rearrest)
There was no statistically significant difference in number of arrests between RICC defendants and comparison defendants, by the end of the 2-year follow up.

Conviction Rates
The RICC defendants had lower conviction rates (16 percent), compared with comparison defendants (64 percent). This difference was statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Rempel and colleagues (2018) used a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the process, cost, and impact of the Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC) in Chittenden County, Vt. A quasi-experimental design was used to measure the impact for RICC defendants, compared with matched comparison defendants. The study was part of a multisite evaluation of prosecutor-led diversion programs.

Individuals were eligible for RICC if they had been arrested or cited for nonviolent offenses that appeared to result from untreated addiction or mental illness. An appropriate comparison group was identified through use of propensity score matching. The RICC group (n = 268) was 58 percent male, 91 percent white, 5 percent black, and had an average age of 37.42 years. The group averaged 6.52 total prior arrests and 3.96 total prior convictions. The comparison group (n = 536) was 63 percent male, 92 percent white, 6 percent black, and had an average age of 37.12 years. The group averaged 6.52 total prior arrests and 4.37 total prior convictions. There were no significant differences between groups at the baseline. RICC defendants were assessed and connected to services, whereas the comparison defendants received no diversion services.

The researchers conducted site visits and held focus groups to learn more about the process of RICC, and administrative data was analyzed for cost evaluation of the program. To measure the program effects on case disposition (convicted or not), use of jail, and 2-year rearrest rates, they computed odds ratios for each outcome as an estimate of effects size. Survival analyses were conducted to compare RICC defendants with comparison defendants on the number of days to first rearrest. The cost evaluation included investment costs, or costs associated with running the program, and output costs, or the costs that result from the disposition of the case (e.g., the cost of service providers). No subgroup analysis was conducted.
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The average service provider cost per case was $519 and ranged from a low of $282 to a high of $1,030. In 2014, the program’s annual budget was $160,000 (Bellas 2014).
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Implementation Information

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The Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC) uses the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS) to identify appropriate services for program participants. Participants are then referred to services within the community. Program staff members include a full-time program coordinator and a part-time deputy coordinator. The Burlington Community Justice Center’s criminal justice system liaison provides 10 hours of support to the program per week, paid for by RICC (Bellas 2014).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Rempel, Michael, Melissa Labriola, Priscillia Hunt, Robert C. Davis, Warren A. Reich, and Samantha Cherney. 2018. NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs: Strategies, Impacts, and Cost-Effectiveness. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Bellas, Marcia L. 2014. Chittenden County Rapid Intervention Community Court Process Evaluation Final Report. Northfield Falls, Vt.: Vermont Center for Justice Research.

Labriola, Melissa, Warren A. Reich, Robert C. Davis, Priscillia Hunt, Michael Rempel, and Samantha Cherney. 2018. Prosecutor-Led Pretrial Diversion: Case Studies in Eleven Jurisdictions. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.
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Program Snapshot

Age: 16+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, Courts

Program Type: Community Courts, Diversion, Restorative Justice, Wraparound/Case Management

Current Program Status: Active