150 RULE EXPLAINED Part 1
There are 3 large law enforcement programs operating around and throughout NOPD, the Judges, and District Attorney’s Office. These programs are Diversion, part of the Orleans D.A.’s empire; Probation and Parole, part of the Louisiana Public Safety and Corrections Department; and the Indigent Defendants Program, now a private company affiliated with the Orleans Judicial System and funded how?
The Assistant D.A.s are part of the 150 rule conundrum , as some of the worst Assistants consistently pursue cases that won’t fly in court, leading to fast acquittals. This wastes the Judges’ time, and that’s not good for their relationships with the Judges. Judges lose patience with D.A.s who pursue cases the Judge feels should be settled.
Each one of these departments have key roles in the criminal justice system in Orleans Parish. Let’s examine each briefly.
Diversion was a small program for drug users. It had several components- Drug Therapy, Individual Counseling, Random Drug Screening. You have to be gainfully employed, and come in for a drug screen within 24 hours of being auto dialed to get tested. The Criminal Court Judges have their own drug screen operation which was just upgraded substantially. The Judges have been charging $10.00 cash, pay next time if you cannot pay initially.
There’s a certain coolness factor when the Criminal Court Judges have their own drug lab in their venerable granite building at Tulane and Broad. If you give the Judge any reason to doubt or distrust you, it’s off to the drug screen. Lots of folks get sent straight to Jail from Court by virtue of a failed drug test while in Court.
Diversion uses the Tulane Drug Analysis Laboratory downtown on Tulane Avenue in the Amoco Building. It used to be owned by Tulane University until Katrina, when the doctors working the testing lab purchased it. They charge $22 for a 10 point screen. If a company sends down a perspective employee to the lab for a drug screen, they charge $60-80, so the D.A. gets a good deal.
Before the current District Attorney took office, Diversion lasted from around 6 months to 1 year in length. It was a very small program being recommended by very few Assistant D.A.s and promoted by very few Judges.
Then Cannizzaro was elected, and he doubled the length of Diversion up to 2 years in length! Judges don’t want open cases for 2 years under any circumstances, so this lengthening doesn’t work in practice.
Cannizzaro also opened up Diversion to non drug offenses, like simple burglary. The program had to change for these candidates- no Drug Therapy, and drug screens aren’t random, but regular. Weekly drug screens at $22 each times 100 weeks equals $2,200 for 2 years of tests.
The Assistant D.A.s assigned to each Courtroom make the decision to recommend a suspect for the program. Some Judges advocate for the program several times a day.
So Diversion was opened up to lots more candidates, and for longer periods, and then the Criminal Judges got wind of the new alternative for 1st offenders and non violent types- Diversion!! This meant huge changes for the Diversion Counselors, who used to care about their assignees, and formed a real relationship with them. When the numbers of clients assigned to each client approached 100, the good counselors quit, and caretaker types took over. When the numbers hit 150 clients per counselor, you have very little program at all.
Add to all this confusion, the Judges’ attitude about cases extending for years on end- they don’t buy it or put up with it. They force a trial, and try to make the Assistant D.A. offer a deal. The Assistant D.A. may have his/her own agenda concerning the defendant precluding any deal, regardless of Judicial pressure to settle. A trial may ensue very quickly as the defendant may have been in Diversion for a year or more before being drummed out without notice. The Court case may resume and the Defendant has received no notice of any Court proceedings. He’s been going to Diversion as required by the Court, passing every drug screen. All of a sudden, the Judge orders a trial that day, then abruptly changes the date, moving it two days forward.
The following is from the Orleans Parish District Attorneys web site: The Diversion Program can take anywhere from 9 to 24 months to complete and can include drug testing, counseling, substance abuse treatment, group therapy, education and job skills training. During the 13 months I tracked Diversion through my client, the program went from good to OK to bad to worse, and I certainly saw no sign of job skills training or any education efforts.