According to the United States Attorney’s Office – Central District of California, the CASA program is a “post-guilty program in the U.S. District Court for select individuals that focuses on drug and mental health treatment, alternative sanctions, and incentives to effectively address offender behavior, rehabilitation, and the safety of the community.”
Given that the CASA program is highly selective, the process for applying for CASA consideration is very extensive and it should be considered an honor to be chosen to participate. Individuals selected for CASA must enter a guilty plea under a plea agreement which requires participation in the CASA program. The plea agreement will specify whether the participant will be a “Track I” participant or a “Track II” participant. Track I participants will receive a dismissal of the federal charges upon successful completion of the program and Track II participants will receive a reduced sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment for successful completion of CASA.
In the application to participate, the CASA team considers the defendant’s personal history, the participant’s role in the current offense, prior criminal history of the defendant, motivation behind the participation in the crime, any substance abuse, mental health and/or life skills issues that the program could potentially address, and any mitigating factors or pro-social activities that demonstrate suitability in the program.
During the CASA program itself, participants are “subject to intensive pretrial supervision” with conditions including: regular court appearances before the CASA team, participation in programs intended to address the causes of the defendant’s criminal conduct, substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, employment and educations programs, restorative justice programs and regular random drug testing. The program is designed to require a minimum of 12 months of participation and can be extended to 2 years.
If the defendant fails to successfully complete the CASA program, they will be sentenced on the charges to which they originally entered the guilty pleas.
An article written by the Los Angeles Times discuses firsthand how participation in the CASA program can dramatically benefit the participants. According to the article, only about 50 of the 1,500 defendants supervised by the court’s pretrial services department districtwide are in the program – making this a truly unique opportunity for those selected.
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