BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel announced Thursday his office will officially launch the Deschutes County Emerging Adult Pilot Program on July 1, a pre-charge diversion program for young adults that he said “will provide first-time offenders between the ages of 18-24 the opportunity to redirect their lives onto a more positive pathway.”

The program, in collaboration with four other Central organizations, will last nine months. Hummel told NewsChannel 21 a six-month pilot program would be “too short,” while a two-year pilot program would be “too long.”

“We want to help young adults be successful,” Hummel told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday. “That’s good for them, and that’s good for their future spouses and kids, and that’s good for our community. Because if these kids are successful, they will be less likely to commit crimes in the future — and that will make for a safer Deschutes County. And that’s the ultimate goal.”

Hummel said the project will not include any young adult charged with serious crimes such as murder, as well as sex crimes, DUII or domestic violence. Others would be considered on a case-by-case basis for the 12 people chosen to take part in the pilot project.

Hummel said Friday the project will not include any young adult charged with serious crimes such as murder, as well as sex crimes, DUII or domestic violence. Others would be considered on a case-by-case basis for the 12 people chosen to take part in the pilot project.

Asked about some other crimes, such as forgery, as mentioned by a KTVZ.COM commenter, the DA said, “I would not allow someone in the program who took their grandmother’s life earnings.  But would I let someone in who forged info about his age to get a job that required him to be 23 (he was 21 and the employer’s insurance company required employees to be 23 to drive the vehicles for the job) because he needed to job to support his grandmother’s chemotherapy treatment?  Yes I would.”

“Your viewer suggests assaults be excluded, based on an awful example of an assault.  I would not allow someone in the program who beat up their neighbor in front of his 5-year-old child.  But would I allow an 18-year-old in the program who punched another 18-year-old once, after that other 18-year-old called the puncher’s grandmother an expletive because he thought she was walking too slowly? I probably would.

“Your viewer implies that he’s pleased with the 60 percent recidivism rate in Deschutes County for the 400 people annually between the ages of 18 and 24 who are prosecuted by our justice system.  He must be pleased with the results if he’s defending the system that produces these results.  A 60 percent recidivism rate is unacceptable to me, so I came up with a new way.  If the new way does not work, we’ll come up with a third way.   

“Deschutes County: the place where we never stop innovating to make our community the safest and most just place to live and raise a family,” Hummel wrote.

According to Hummel, this program is not only a first for Deschutes County, but could also be a first for the country.

“We need to get them help and corrective measures, give them mentorship and hold them accountable when necessary,” Hummel said. “What we don’t need to do is saddle them with adult convictions that will impact them the rest of their life.”

If the pilot program is successful, Hummel said they will likely expand it — and if not, it will be scrapped.

Here’s the rest of Hummel’s Thursday announcement on the program:

Program Description

The Emerging Adult Program rethinks how we engage with young adults involved in the criminal justice system, as traditional prosecution is not always the best answer. This is particularly true for 18 to 24-year-olds, who are making critical life decisions even though, as research has discovered, their brains have not yet reached full maturity, which can lead them to make poor choices. The District Attorney Office’s plan is to implement a pre-charge diversion program based on restorative justice methodologies that will offer young adults the opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions, while providing them with the resources and actionable steps needed to change their life course.

“We all made decisions when we were younger that we might make differently today if we had to do it over again,” Hummel said.

“Although we can’t offer ourselves or an emerging adult a ‘do-over,’ we can help young adults understand the impact of their actions on others, provide them with an opportunity to amend for their misstep, and take actions to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistake,” he added. “What value does the criminal justice system provide if its response is only punitive, and that response hampers that person from ever having the opportunity to really succeed?”  

The Emerging Adult Pilot Program is a collaborative initiative involving the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, volunteer community facilitators and defense attorneys, Deschutes County Behavioral Health Services, Thrive Central Oregon, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and Community Solutions of Central Oregon.

This integrated, holistic team will provide 12 first-time offenders access to appropriate individualized community services to help them find the support, education and/or employment opportunities they need to redirect their lives onto a path for future success. 

Volunteer Recruitment

For the Emerging Adult Pilot Program to be successful, the District Attorney’s Office needs community volunteers to serve as trained restorative justice facilitators. These facilitators will engage in conversation with these young adults about their charge and current life situation, and will work with them to establish an approved personalized intervention plan.

We are looking to recruit individuals that have a passion for helping young adults and want to make a difference in the lives of fellow community members. Volunteers will be trained, so no prior experience with the criminal justice system or the restorative justice model is required.

Volunteers must be:

·         At least 21 years old,

·         Open to criminal justice reform measures,

·         Able to commit to at least a half-day once a month on a Thursday to the program (July 2021 – March 2022), and

·         Participate in a multi-session Zoom training event starting in mid-June 2021.

Individuals with lived-experience in the criminal justice system are encouraged to volunteer for this opportunity.

To learn more about the Emerging Adult Volunteer Opportunity, community members are invited to join us for an information webinar on Monday, June 7, 2021 at 12:00 PM.

Register for this one-hour informational event through the link code below: