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Jefferson County DA announces new program to help certain offenders avoid jail

Diversion program in Jefferson County
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new program to keep young, first-time, offenders out of the criminal system in Jefferson County was announced by District Attorney Danny Carr in hopes of giving them a second chance.

The program is called Reset Jefferson County. It’s a diversion program for young, first-time offenders of low-level crimes.

“Things like first-time possession cases. First-time petite theft cases,” Carr explained.

When a person is arrested and prosecuted, it can create a downward spiral of fines, fees, jail, and long-term consequences that affect employment, education, and housing, according to Carr, who said that outcome should be avoided in some cases.

According to Jefferson County, each year more than 500 people age 17 to 24 are charged with Class D felonies for low-level drug and property offenses.

Carr said the cases disproportionately impact people of color. In 2019 75% of arrests were of Black people.

The free program is modeled after the Center for Court Innovation’s (CCI) successful Project Reset program in New York, according to Carr. It’s a partnership and would require participants to complete classes that Carr to hold them accountable and avoid jail.

“Learn the error of their ways by the programming we’ll provide, and hopefully they won’t make that same mistake again. And they can go on and be productive members of society,” Carr explained.

When participants complete programming, the prosecutor will decline to prosecute them, their record is cleared, and they won’t have to appear in court. Participants who do not complete programming are sent back to the court system.

Carr says the victims of the crimes will also be addressed by the program.

Click here to learn more about the program.

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