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Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino and Tuckahoe Police Chief John Costanzo

Alternatives to incarceration are a major focus of the District Attorney’s Office, in particular, programs that emphasize drug treatment and recovery over incarceration. Specialty courts encourage disposition of criminal cases to reduce incarceration rates and allow offenders to get the help they need without the stigma of a criminal conviction.

Expanding Specialty Diversion Courts

The Drug Courts initiative is expanding. The DA’s Office partnered with the Chief Administrative Judge of the Ninth Judicial District to create “hub courts” for the adjudication of cases where defendants are suffering from substance abuse disorders. Designating City Courts (Mount Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains) as “hub courts” allows Village and Town Justices to divert cases to a drug treatment court where defendants will receive substance abuse treatment and supportive services to promote long-term recovery. This year, a new “hub court” opened in Peekskill to serve residents in northern Westchester.
Similarly, Mental Health Court is a coordinated effort to provide an alternative to incarceration for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. The team consists of the judge, counselors from the County Department of Community Mental Health, a prosecutor and defense counsel, and a probation Officer. The aim is to provide ongoing treatment and community-based services. We have an ADA dedicated to handle these special cases.

Until this year, in Mental Health Court, interim probation was limited to only one year. However, it was different in felony Drug Court. Noting that disparity, in June, our Office was instrumental in drafting a change to the existing statute which was passed and signed into law. It now extends interim probation to two years in all treatment courts.

New Court Providing Support to Veterans

New in 2020: The Chief Administrative Judge of the Ninth Judicial District established a Veterans Court in Westchester County open to any criminal defendant who has served in the U.S. military. At the request of the defense, the defendant may be evaluated and, if he or she is a candidate for diversion, the case is transferred to the Veterans Court. A volunteer veteran mentor is assigned to the defendant and a treatment plan is created for the participant. The program recognizes that the behavior which resulted in criminal charges may be the result of a traumatic period in the military. The program’s objective is to provide the necessary services so the defendant may make a smoother transition to civilian life and avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction. This will be a new part in the County Criminal Court. It will be manned by an Assistant District Attorney and will function