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Second Chance’ Program Diverts Some Offenders Away From Jail

In this Feb. 21, 2013 file photo, an inmate at the Madera County Jail is take...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: In this Feb. 21, 2013 file photo, an inmate at the Madera County Jail is taken to a housing unit at the facility in Madera, Calif. The Board of State and County Corrections voted Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, to require that future jails include space for face-to-face visit.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office is touting a program that has offenders doing therapy and community service instead of jail time for some low-level crimes.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan wants offenders to address the underlying cause of their crimes.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"We know a lot of criminality is based on impulsive behavior," she said.

Stephan is promoting a community justice initiative that diverts some people from jail by having them complete a 12 hour behavioral therapy class and four hours of community service for cases to be dismissed.

The diversion program is only available for some non-violent offenses.

"This would be like your petty thefts, your vandalism, your driving offenses — but not driving under the influence," Stephan said.

Video: San Diego County District Attorney Offers Therapy And Community Service To Low-level Criminals

Reported by Matthew Hoffman , Video by Matthew Bowler

RELATED: DA Calls For De-Escalation Training For Police Who Encounter Mentally Ill

The county public defender’s office normally opposes the district attorney — but this is something they both agree on.

"This criminal justice initiative has proved effective in reducing recidivism, courthouse overcrowding and jail overcrowding," said San Diego County Public Defender Randy Mize.

Over the past year, 586 people have entered the program and so far, 210 have had their cases dismissed.

"This is mostly for first time offenders and we know through what we did over the last year it has created safety in the community in that only 2% have repeated any criminal behavior," Stephan said.

Stephan added the program is all about second chances as a criminal record could keep someone from getting a job or renting an apartment.

Crimes not eligible for the program include sex offences, child and elder abuse and hate crimes — among others.

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Aired: August 30, 2019 | Transcript

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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