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Alternatives to Prosecution: San Francisco’s Collaborative Courts and Pretrial Diversion


Jurisdictions across the country offer programs to divert people out of standard criminal justice processes and into programs designed to deter future crime by addressing the underlying causes of the criminal activity. However, San Francisco is unique for providing diversion programs to individuals with more complex needs, including those with longer criminal histories and those charged with felonies. Approximately 16,000 people were referred to seven diversion programs offered through San Francisco’s Collaborative Courts and Pretrial Diversion between 2008 and 2018. The programs vary in terms of the intended population served, capacity, participation requirements, and duration. This report examines referral, enrollment, and completion rates for these seven programs and describes the demographics of participants as well as their pre-program and post-program interactions with the criminal justice system. While this paper does not evaluate causal relationships between referrals to diversion programs and case outcomes or subsequent criminal justice contact, forthcoming research by the California Policy Lab will estimate the impact of diversion referrals on these outcomes.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grant MRP-19-600774.

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