The Cook County state's attorney's office has added another program aimed at giving criminals a second chance - along the same lines as the prostitute court that was added earlier this year.
The new deferred prosecution program helps first-time felony offenders avoid a felony conviction on their record. It's only available for non-violent crimes, like retail theft, forgery, burglary and drug possession. The defendant has to be chosen or approved by the state's attorney's office and they must comply with all the terms of the program. The victim must give their consent, as well.
It's not exactly like the prostitute court, which is aimed at repeat offenders. The idea there is to get them off the streets for good and back on their feet. In order to enter the program, they have to plead guilty and spend some time in jail. In this new felony program, offenders avoid conviction altogether. The idea is to free up the system somewhat and at the same time allow certain offenders to avoid the stigma and lifelong burden of having a felony conviction on their record. Sounds good to me.
I believe people who commit crimes should be punished, even severely if warranted. But a felony conviction is serious and can prevent you from going to college, getting a job, joining the military, etc. In my opinion, there are people who commit felonies that don't deserve that harsh of a punishment. The program isn't a cake walk. The defendant has to make restitution, get a job or do community service, take classes toward a GED if they don't have a high school diploma, take drug/alcohol classes if relevant, attend all court dates, and generally stay out of trouble (not get arrested) during the program.
Another reason behind this type of program is that the system is overcrowded. These cases can be a waste of resources. The idea is that if we take some of the first-time offenders into this program instead, it should free up resources for more serious cases. (Although I wonder how much time and resources the deferred prosecution program will require.)
All in all, I'm in favor and if the victim of the crime consents to it then I don't see how anyone can be opposed.
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