The Juvenile Justice Unit of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office is located in the city of Springfield with a satellite office in the City of Holyoke and serves three juvenile courts, which are located in the cities of Springfield and Holyoke, and the town of Palmer. The District Attorney has committed resources to prioritize juvenile prosecutions by designating and training assistant district attorneys and other staff members to handle the prosecution of juvenile cases exclusively. This Unit is comprised of fulltime prosecutors, diversion program specialists, victim witness advocates, and an administrative assistant.
There are three alternative methods of handling delinquency matters(juvenile criminal charges) within the juvenile justice system:
- Standard Delinquency Prosecutions
- Youthful Offender Indictment, which allows for potential adult penalties (cases involving serious risk of harm to the community including risk of serious injuries, cases involving guns, and repeat offenders)
- Diversion Program
- First time offenders
- Under the age of 18
- Cases involving minor misdemeanors
Juvenile Diversion Program
When appropriate, first time offenders under age 18 who commit minor misdemeanors may be referred to the Hampden County District Attorney Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP). The District Attorney’s Office determines whether a juvenile will be offered an opportunity to participate based on a review of the case and the program’s established criteria. The JDP is an alternative means to resolve delinquency cases. The program is based on the widely accepted belief that not all cases are best handled through formal court proceedings. The program provides first time non-violent offenders the opportunity to receive services in lieu of being prosecuted through the traditional court process. A diversion program benefits society by dealing early and intensively with juvenile delinquent behavior and helps reconnect a juvenile to his or her community. Once accepted into the JDP, the juvenile may be required to participate in appropriate counseling, education, and community service projects and if a case involves property damage, the juvenile may also be responsible for payment of restitution.