Focusing on the root causes of crimes, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein has implemented a new diversion program to have certain cases dropped. The measure, which applies to misdemeanor shoplifting and theft crimes, will set up defendants with caseworkers to determine why the offense was committed.
Klein says the program is aimed at preventing a cycle of criminal behavior by helping offenders understand and gain access to resources that could help with their situations. He recognized that some people commit offenses with malicious intent; however, others might have just gone through tough times and carried out the act in desperation.
After an individual is connected with a caseworker, they will then be directed to health and social services that could help with their situation. Klein gave an example of a person without sufficient access to food or with a mental health condition. A plan would be established for them that provides access to a food bank and psychological assessment.
The diversion program would last 6 months, and after a person successfully completes it, their criminal charges will be dropped. However, if they fail to meet the terms, they will be prosecuted as if they had not participated in a plan.
Such measures have been implemented with other agencies and have seen positive outcomes, helping participants obtain employment and housing.
Currently, the city’s diversion program only applies to theft and shoplifting offenses that occur at big box stores; however, it could be expanded if it proves successful.
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