Stepping Up

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Judge Peter M. Forman addresses graduates of Judicial Diversion during a commencement ceremony Jan. 9 in his courtroom at the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie. Father Richard Smith, pastor of St. Joachim-St. John the Evangelist parish in Beacon was the commencement speaker. He was invited by Forman, a parishioner of St. Joachim-St. John the Evangelist and a former president of the parish council. Judicial Diversion is mandated in each county of New York state. In Dutchess County, 60 participants who have pleaded guilty to drug-related felony charges have entered the treatment-oriented program. Forman of Dutchess County Court presides over the administration of Judicial Diversion, which includes a team of professionals from the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender, the Probation Department and the Department of Mental Health. The team meets monthly to review each participant’s progress and the judge then meets with the individual in court. Most graduates take 18-24 months to complete the requirements of Diversion. If the defendant is successful, his or her guilty plea is reduced to a misdemeanor and a prison sentence is avoided. If discharged from the program, the participant faces a more severe prison sentence than if he or she did not participate. 

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