'Second Chance' Program Diverts Some Offenders Away From Jail
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.
"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.
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.