Diversion Program Saves Money, Eases Jail Overcrowding

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Eighty to 100 times a day, the door closes on another inmate at the Franklin County Jail. And, the jail is full, like many others.

The sheriff says it costs taxpayers about $70 per inmate each day.

But those costs would be higher,  if not for the diversion program.

For almost four decades, Franklin County has offered first time, non-violent offenders a second chance.  If the judge, detective, and victim agree - offenders can avoid jail by meeting with a court investigator on a regular basis.

"They are charged. They do have to plead guilty.  The guilty plea is held in abeyance for a year while they're basically put on probation without the conviction,” says Ron O'Brien, Franklin County Prosecutor.

They're required to get a job and pay back the victim for what was often a property crime. They also must show up for community service.

"That's one less case that doesn't require jail space, the creation of time on the docket, the trial,” explained O’Brien. "I think it helps the taxpayers because it reduces the overall costs associated with the criminal justice system."

And for these men and women, tough love means a fresh start.

"After this is finished, it's...it's over with for me. They'll never see me again,” said one diversion program participant.

O'Brien says offenders who successfully complete the program may have their records expunged.

He says they've had a few failures and some people have re-offended, but overall the program has been a huge success.