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State’s attorney promoting diversion program options

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office wants eligible first-time offenders to know that, through diversion programs, they have the option to keep criminal convictions off their records, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said.

But, he told reporters at his monthly media meeting this week, more and more people with pending cases are asking about such programs late in the process.

McMahon acknowledged that some of the late requests are because of out-of-county attorneys being unaware of the programs, but he also noted that a big part of the diversion programs is accepting responsibility early.

The state’s attorney’s office is working to better publicize the programs, both on its website and at the time of individuals’ arraignments.

“I think these are great programs,” McMahon said. “I want people to know about these options.”

The number of diversionary programs has grown to five since the state’s attorney’s office began offering them in October 1995. According to the office’s website, about 80 percent of the approximately 5,000 participants have completed the programs.

The diversion programs are as follows:

• Felony/misdemeanor – Provides a plan for first-time, nonviolent offenders to keep a conviction from being permanently entered on their record while accepting responsibility for their criminal activity.

• Misdemeanor drug and alcohol – Holds certain first-time misdemeanor drug and alcohol offenders accountable, provides information and counseling about the risks of such substances and provides tools to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders or addicts.

• Domestic violence – Designed to hold first-time domestic violence offenders accountable and provides tools, such as counseling, to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders.

• Solicitation/prostitution – Helps educate certain prostitution or solicitation-related offenders to understand the risks and consequences of committing these acts and to remove occurrences of these offenses from the neighborhoods in which they occur.

• Felony drug – Gives offenders the opportunity to avoid prison and a permanent conviction on their record; teaches them to live drug-free and more productive lives; and reduces the likelihood that they will become perpetual offenders.

The felony drug diversion program began about a year ago and has had 100 applicants, according to the state’s attorney’s office. Of those, the office reported, 79 applicants are participating, approved to start or awaiting approval; five were rejected; six had negative terminations; and 10 chose not to participate or were unable to participate after their acceptance.

The program is expected to graduate its first participant in June.

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