Alternative Sentencing Courts

The District Attorney’s Office has taken significant steps to route more nonviolent offenders into the county’s alternative sentencing courts.

These courts give people the chance to turn their lives around and become contributing members of communities throughout Los Angeles County. The programs also divert certain nonviolent offenders from incarceration and free up more jail space for serious and violent criminals.

Alternative sentencing courts include:

  • Los Angeles County Drug Court
  • Sentenced Offender Drug Court
  • Veterans Court
  • Second Chance Woman’s Re-entry Court
  • Co-Occurring Disorders Court

At District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s request, the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee (CCJCC) expanded its criteria for participation in May 2014. As a result, the Los Angeles County Drug Court opened its doors to all low-level felony theft offenders. In addition, participants in the county’s Sentenced Offender Drug Court now include nonviolent offenders charged with low-level offenses involving the sale of narcotics.

Alternative sentencing courts were proven to increase public safety. Defendants who agreed to participate in them were placed in evidence-based treatment programs and were less likely to re-offend than those sentenced to state prison.

To make alternative sentencing programs more available, the office created the Alternative Sentencing Court Designee (ASC) Program in 2014.

Under the program, several prosecutors were designated as subject matter experts on ASC programs in branch and area offices. The prosecutors received specialized training and resources to help them identify qualified defendants and refer them to appropriate programs.

Eligible defendants are screened by prosecutors to determine if they are ready to abandon their destructive lifestyles and receive help. Their backgrounds are investigated and reviewed to ensure public safety.

A CCJCC report found that more than 70 percent of those who successfully completed the Drug Court program remained conviction-free in the five years following their graduation. Other specialty courts also have been shown to reduce the rate of recidivism by half compared to those sentenced to state prison.