State’s Attorney: ‘Revolutionary' diversion program marks first triumph
Offering a chance for lawbreakers to take responsibility, make restitution and avoid lifelong stigma, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim revealed Friday that the jurisdiction’s Alternative Prosecution Program has generated its first successful participant.
The first individual to complete the unique program met all requirements under his Alternative Prosecution Agreement and Court Order, additionally displaying dedication and commitment to his goal.
"The program was launched in July 2015, and I knew then that it would be successful,” Nerheim said. “This revolutionary diversion program allows those that qualify an opportunity to learn from their conduct, and pay their debt to society. After completion, they have the ability to re-enter the community as a productive member without the weight of a felony conviction following them for the rest of their life."
The program provides an opportunity for first-time non-violent criminal offenders to take responsibility for their actions, make amends to victims and simultaneously avoid the complications of living with a felony conviction on their records.
By remitting a $70 application fee, each defendant has the chance for a clean slate in this innovative approach to societal re-entry. After eligibility is determined by an interview with an assistant state’s attorney, the offender appears before a citizen's panel comprised of 16 Lake County volunteers who then make a recommendation.
Once accepted, candidates pay restitution if applicable, along with a $1,500 program fee, drug test costs and a donation to an anti-crime program. If the yearlong program is completed effectively, the individual’s criminal charges are dismissed and he can file for expungement; otherwise, the case returns to court for sentencing.
The initiative allows wrongdoers a second chance without creating an additional burden on Lake County taxpayers.
“This diversion program holds offenders accountable, yet allows deserving defendants to have a second chance,” the State’s Attorney’s office said. “The Alternative Prosecution Program is at the heart of the mission of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office to seek justice and uphold the integrity of the criminal justice system.”