'Fresh Start': Westchester DA announces program to help first-time offenders get back on track

The program, called Fresh Start, now gives first-time offenders for low-level crimes the option to take a three-hour counseling course instead of going straight to court and getting a criminal record.

News 12 Staff

Sep 28, 2021, 9:52 PM

Updated 1,028 days ago

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Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah on Tuesday announced a new program that's designed to help lawbreakers avoid further troubles.
The program, called Fresh Start, now gives first-time offenders for low-level crimes the option to take a three-hour counseling course instead of going straight to court and getting a criminal record.
“For too long, we have seen a destructive cycle for people arrested for low-level crimes,” said Rocah. “Many would end up in jail, some would lose jobs, and almost all would have a criminal conviction that would make it difficult for them to get housing, loans, education, and jobs in the future… And this traditional method of prosecution has not always led to greater public safety or lower rates of recidivism. Instead, it has led to the over-incarceration of people of color."
The eligible crimes for the program include things like trespassing, shoplifting, and criminal sale or possession of marijuana. The course would educate them about the impact of their actions, and direct them to resources for underlying issues like mental health, drug addiction or financial instability.
Once they successfully complete the course, the DA will not prosecute their offense.
This pilot program will start with cases in Greenburgh and White Plains with hopes to expand countywide. The program is modeled after New York City's Project Reset, which launched in 2015 and was deemed successful.


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