Diversion programs are federal programs that allow individuals who are facing criminal drug charges to avoid criminal conviction. While these “drug courts” have been used since the 1980s, they are receiving more attention now than ever before for being a viable alternative to imprisonment. At a time when the U.S. is spending billions to house prisoners, less expensive rehab programs such as these drug courts could end up saving billions of taxpayer dollars each year.

Diversion programs, more commonly known as drug courts, allow participants to avoid criminal conviction by following certain rules and guidelines set by federal agencies. Participants enrolled in the program are usually required to remain employed full-time or be a full-time student. They also are required to attend counseling meetings and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. For many individuals, these programs are a much-needed helping hand.

Not only do diversion programs help individuals avoid criminal convictions, it also saves money and overpopulation on an already strained imprisonment system. With a Bureau of prisons budget doubling from year-to-year, the cost-effective alternative to drug courts may become a necessity in the near future.

Although studies have found that participation in these divergent programs saves money, there is some skepticism about how significant the findings may be. Many of the participants are individuals facing minor sentences, so the money saved may not be significant enough to make a difference. However, the rehabilitation process offered through these programs may help prevent repeat offenses, which would save money in the long run.

Diversion programs are a viable and attractive alternative to imprisonment for individuals facing a criminal conviction. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, individuals facing drug charges may be able to request enrollment in a diversion program and receive the second chance they deserve.