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New Program Keeps First-Time Offenders Out from Behind Bars

A program taking mostly first-time offenders out of jail in exchange for another option is finally in motion.
By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

ECTOR COUNTY- A program taking mostly first-time offenders out of jail in exchange for another option is finally in motion. 

"If they successfully complete the program, they're never found guilty of the offense," Ector County Judge, Susan Redford, said.

It's called the Pretrial Intervention Program and it's aimed at first-time offenders who've committed smaller misdemeanor crimes like possession of marijuana and public intoxication. The program lets these people with mostly clean records avoid more jail time. Instead, they've got to pay the county $500.00, complete 40 hours of community service and go through six months of probation.

However, they don't have to take the deal if they don't want to.

"They're welcome to come forward and take any other plea deal offered to them or take their case to trial," Redford said.

For clarification, offenders will still have to go to jail at first.

"It's not called pre jail intervention. It's pretrial intervention, so they have to be arrested once. They're still going to hit the jailhouse," Ector County Sheriff, Mark Donaldson, said.

However, offenders won't have to stay in jail if they choose this new option.

It was first thrown on the table to address the problem of crowding inside the jail.

"Anything that can keep people from being sentenced to jail helps us because we've got a lot of people in jail and we're short-handed staff wise because of the economy," Donaldson said.

Ector County Judge Redford doesn't believe it will make a difference with crowding situation. 

"We are still going to have an overcrowded jail. The reason being, these are first-time offenders. They've already bonded out of jail. They're not an issue for our jail anymore. They're not going to go to jail for the offenses they've committed," Redford said.

The County Attorney's Office tells NewsWest 9, they've been pushing for the program for a different reason. They're hoping it keeps first-time offenders out of the criminal cycle and gets them back on track.

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