ADA — Candidate for district attorney Josh Edwards announced a diversionary prosecution plan for veterans and members of the armed forces.

Edwards’ plan would be the first dedicated diversionary program for veterans in the 22nd Judicial District, which includes Hughes, Pontotoc, and Seminole counties. Under the plan, veterans and servicemembers who are arrested or alleged to have committed a nonviolent crime would be evaluated for a deferred prosecution agreement prior to charges being filed.

A deferred prosecution agreement is a program that prosecutors may use to avoid court proceedings altogether when an offender voluntarily agrees to submit to supervision and to seek certain services such as mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment. The nature and severity of the crime, as well as the opinion of the victim, the offender’s military status, criminal history, and mental health history, would be considered in Edwards’ plan for determining whether a person should qualify for deferred prosecution.

“Having represented many veterans and servicemembers, I understand they sometimes face unique challenges as a result of their service. Members of the military should be given special consideration for deferred prosecution because of their service to the community,” Edwards stated. “Prosecutors routinely refuse to consider deferred prosecution or do so only after they have filed charges. This results in additional out-of-pocket court costs and generally requires hiring an attorney to clear the servicemembers’ criminal record. I am committed to criminal justice reform and I will change how the justice system treats veterans and servicemembers. As district attorney, I will ensure that those in our community who have served in the military are afforded the opportunity to voluntarily obtain services as an alternative to the court system and incarceration for nonviolent offenses.”

Edwards’ plan would utilize volunteer mentors, who are also veterans, to communicate directly with the participant and to monitor the participant’s progress. By relying upon volunteers, the diversionary program would be cost-free to veterans and servicemembers and provide greater oversight than traditional supervision through the district attorney’s office.

Editor’s Note: This item was published as submitted, as an opinion piece, by a candidate currently running for elected office.