Pretrial intervention (PTI) is a program which may be made available to first time nonviolent offenders. If selected for such a program, offenders are allowed to pursue a rehabilitative track instead of going to trial and potentially serving time in a penal institution if convicted. Such programs are available in a number of regions of the world and people who are eligible for pretrial intervention will usually be given information about how to apply for the program. Those who need assistance can access lawyers who can help them file applications and argue their case.
There are a number of benefits to using pretrial intervention to divert minor criminals away from the courts. The court system is often very crowded, and pretrial intervention can remove minor crimes from the courts to free up time on the schedule. This in turn will permit speedier trials, because the courts will not be tied up with minor crimes and thus can focus on larger issues. In addition, pretrial intervention reduces prison overcrowding by providing people with an alternative to prison.
Advocates for penal reform argue that such programs reduce recidivism. Conditional programs, as they are sometimes known, focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and graduates of such programs may be less likely to commit future crimes. Staying out of prison reduces recidivism and is also safer, as prisons can be dangerous because of their crowded conditions and the mixture of incarcerated convicts. In addition, a condition of such programs is usually restitution for victims, which can benefit victims.
In a pretrial intervention program, the offender is usually required to make restitution, attend counseling, and connect with community services which may be valuable, such as job placement organizations. Community service may be required and offenders may also be taken on prison tours to give them a reminder of the consequences of future criminal activity. People need to remain on good behavior during the program, including passing drug tests. At the end of the program, the graduate's record is expunged.
If someone fails to perform during a pretrial intervention program, that person may be brought to trial and will be faced with prison time and other penalties. This serves as an incentive for people to complete such programs successfully. While in the program, people may acquire skills or learn about careers which they can use to become contributing members of society, while prison does not offer these options and may instead promote a return to crime.