The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) is excited to announce the Low-Level Retail Theft Diversion Initiative. The goal of this Initiative is to work with prosecutors’ offices and their law enforcement and community partners to determine effective retail theft responses that diagnose the underlying causes of theft while balancing the needs of retailers and the safety and equity of the communities that prosecutors serve.

Through this Initiative, APA selected five (5) sites to pilot a prosecutor-involved low-level retail theft diversion program. The five sites that have been selected are: East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office, LA; Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, CA; Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, CA; Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office (Memphis), TN; and the Columbus City Attorney’s Office, OH.

Participating sites are engaging in a collaborative assessment, planning, and implementation process with project staff for a minimum of 18 months. A staff member who has authority to make decisions about the office’s diversion programs has been assigned to coordinate office involvement in the project, along with administrative support for scheduling calls and meetings, supplying needed policies and procedures, and identifying relevant stakeholders. Project partners  are engaging in in-person or remote site visits to meet with the offices, system stakeholders, and key program individuals. Finally, offices are working with JSP to provide (de-identified) case-level data for assessment and program evaluation.

The model framework for the program is based on a needs assessment and direct services, so that each participant has an opportunity to have their needs individually addressed. Participants exit and entry questionnaires are used to monitor changes and obtain input for improving the program. The programs also include working with partners in the community, the criminal justice system, and with businesses to ensure buy-in and program sustainability.

Selected Sites

Meet the Team

Marlene Biener serves as General Counsel at APA, where she works directly with prosecutors across the country on criminal justice policies. She oversees and designs trainings, resource guides, and APA publications to convey timely materials and education to prosecutors nationwide. Previously, Marlene worked for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. Marlene graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law in May 2013. She attended Ramapo College of New Jersey, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, with a minor in Public Policy. Marlene is admitted to practice law in the states of New York and New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association.

Rod Underhill served as the elected District Attorney for Multnomah County from January 2013 to August 2020. Rod graduated from the University of Oregon Law School in 1988 and then spent his nearly 32 year professional career, up to now, working as a prosecutor in Multnomah County.  He is best known for his advocacy on behalf of domestic violence and child sexual abuse victims, combating human trafficking, supporting crime victim’s rights, responsible firearm possession and helping to spearhead Oregon’s testing and elimination of backlogged sexual assault forensic examination kits.  Oregon’s former Governor recognized, then District Attorney Underhill, for his tireless work drafting and then supporting the passage of Oregon House Bill 3194 which seeks to responsibly cut prison costs and control future growth while also reinvesting in prevention, treatment, re-entry and victims services. Rod also helped Multnomah County in its criminal justice response to individuals struggling with abuse and addiction to controlled substances with the development and implementation of programs like Treatment First and LEAD.

Joy Repella was an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County for over 28 years and prosecuted felonies from Robbery to Murder. She also handled Involuntary Mental Health Treatment and Commitment as well as Expungement and Sealing. She supervised four Community Justice Centers (CJC) located throughout Cook County. Each CJC was responsible for prosecuting cases important in the community, problem solving local issues, and working to prevent crime. Joy left the State’s Attorney’s office and became an Administrative Law Judge. She worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services hearing cases concerning Medicaid and hearings involving professional licenses. She also has worked at the Illinois Department of Employment Security handling unemployment cases. Currently Joy assists with APA’s Elevating Trust project.

About the Project Partners

About The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys is a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC, with the goal of ensuring safer and more equitable communities through prosecutorial training and technical assistance for our membership, which is comprised of elected and appointed prosecuting attorneys, law enforcement professionals as well as a number of various criminal justice system actors. Data transparency in the criminal justice system works towards achieving that ultimate goal of community equity, while also providing prosecutors nationwide with the tools to create a safer today and tomorrow.

About Justice System Partners
JSP is a non-profit, multidisciplinary team committed to assisting criminal and juvenile legal systems and community partners with transforming their systems. We help our partners reimagine their work by combining rigorous research, technical assistance, and knowledge of evidence-informed strategies. We infuse creativity, innovation, and passion into our work, taking an integrated approach to system transformation to help our partners operationalize meaningful change.