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Giving second chance goal of proposed program

Giving first-time low-level offenders a second chance and an opportunity to better themselves.

That is the goal of a program proposed by Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.

Called a prosecutorial diversion program, Anderson sought and received a letter of support to apply for a grant for the program at Tuesday’s Lawrence County Commission work session.

Anderson said he was seeking a $391,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Corrections. If approved, the grant money would go towards starting a treatment program and hiring case managers and a program director.

The diversion program would be designed to give drug treatment to non-violent, low-level, first-time felony and misdemeanor offenders in an effort to curb jail overcrowding and save the local courts’ money.

“Specific parameters will be developed for certain charges and people who are charged with this crime will be eligible to enroll in the program,” Anderson said.

Those who qualify for the program would waive their right to a speedy trial through his or her attorney and then go on to participate in drug counseling. The participants would not be on probation or housed in the county jail.

“If they complete the program, they would not be convicted of a crime,” Anderson said. “Our plan is, over an 18-month time frame, that it will actually divert 255 individuals away from the county jail and away from being convicted of a crime and probation and prison.”

Anderson said he based that number on reviewing the county’s cases from 2011 to 2012.

“In looking at the numbers I see a great need for some diversionary program that will allow people to seek treatment,” Anderson said. “The drug problem in our community is terrible. It affects the lives of so many. I truly believe we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem. We have to look at other solutions.”

Participants who fail the program would face their original charge.