Nearly 150 offenders crowded into a room at the DeKalb County Magistrate Court on Oct. 21 to participate in the first-ever pre-trial diversion program championed by Solicitor General Sherry Boston.
First-time defendants charged with shoplifting, disorderly conduct, affray [fighting in public] or other minor offenses are eligible for the program. Some offenses, such as driving under the influence, vehicular homicide and family violence battery are excluded from the program.
“I am grateful to the Board of Commissioners for approving this new program because it will offer an efficient, centralized method of resolving misdemeanor charges committed by low-level offenders,” Boston said.
Earlier in the year the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners appropriated $103,064 to the solicitor general’s office to fund the new program, which also created four new positions within the office—two attorneys and two administrative assistants.
“Establishing a much-needed diversion program like this was one of my goals for the office. I believe smart prosecution leads to a better quality of life and this program is part of that approach because it makes DeKalb safer while increasing offender accountability,” Boston said.
In addition to increasing quality of life in the county, Boston said the program would also save taxpayers money by reducing the number of days low-level offenders spend in jail.
To participate, offenders will be charged $300. Keisha Storey, deputy chief of the program, said the money will be deposited directly into the DeKalb County general fund.
“The defendants that are accepted in the program must complete activities personalized for that offender. If they were arrested for shoplifting, they’ll undergo counseling to address that… If they were arrested for obstruction, they’ll be required to attend anger management classes,” Storey said.
Those who complete the program successfully will receive a dismissal of any misdemeanor charges from the solicitor general’s office and their case may be eligible for expungement. As a result, the offender can avoid developing a criminal record.
“We are projecting that all of our future calendars will average about 150 people each month,” Storey said.
This is the second innovation Boston implemented since taking office. Earlier this year, she created the office’s first special victims unit, which handles pending high-risk domestic violence, stalking, sex offense, child-victim, elder and disabled abuse, vehicular homicide and animal cruelty cases.