Anti-recidivism court gives offenders a second chance

In 2011, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James began a program to help troubled youth get a second chance at life. Photos provided

DeKalb County Superior Court Diversion Program Director Kaleema Thomas said those who want a chance to turn their lives around can have it, but they’ll have to work hard for it.
Thomas runs the Anti-Recidivism Court, which was created by District Attorney Robert James in 2011 as a way to give offenders ages 17-25 a second chance. Since the program’s inception, 22 participants have successfully completed the program.
“The participants have to be committed to change and willing to work on themselves throughout the process,” Thomas said. “The program is not a fit for every applicant.”
The yearlong program is intense, Thomas said, and those who participate are required to report to probation, perform community service, report to monthly compliance hearings and undergo random monitoring. Additionally, participants must pay any restitution involved with their arrest, enroll in an academic program if they have not obtained a high school diploma/GED and attend behavior modification classes.
Currently, there are 20 participants in the program. Thomas said it has grown over the years as her office has started taking on more complicated caseloads.
“The program is very vigorous—these young people are charged with pretty serious offenses—so we want to make sure that we’re breaking the cycle of being rearrested,” Thomas said.
James said that it’s important the program isn’t just a “get out of jail free card.”
“It allows them to learn from their prior missteps,” James said.
The Anti-Recidivism Court is a collaborative partnership among DeKalb County Public Defenders’ Office, DeKalb County Magistrate Court and DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. According to national statistics, approximately two-thirds of individuals arrested will be re-arrested within three years.
“We not only provide them with life skills training but also a strict guideline to follow. Many do not complete the course. For those participants who do complete all of their requirements, they will have their cases dismissed,” James said.
Currently, Thomas said the program, is in the process of developing an alumni network for those who have already been through the program.
“When people finish the program they generally tell us how much they’ve benefited from the program. We want the people who actually graduate remaining arrest free for the rest of their lives,” Thomas said.

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3 thoughts on “Anti-recidivism court gives offenders a second chance

  • June 11, 2015 at 10:55 pm
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    I am very impressed with the program. I will have 17 years in recovery as of September 17, 2015. I have earned my bachelor’s in human services management and I am 2 weeks away from my masters program. I will begin a master’s degree in Addiction counseling in August. I volunteered and taught a self-awareness class at the Clayton County Transitional Center for 10 years. My class was a self-awareness class which included the disease concept. I would very much like to become involved in either the Anti-Recidivism Court or the Drug Court. 404/840/7485.

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  • June 11, 2015 at 10:59 pm
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    I would like to become involved with the program. I believe that my 16 years of sobriety and my 10 years of facilitating a self-awareness class at the Clayton County Transitional Center may be used as an asset to prevent recidivism. 404/840/7485

    Reply
  • April 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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    Does this program include persons who have completed their sentencing and is not on any probation? if so where and how can they get involved in this process to have felonies removed? They have remained free of any unlawful activities since being released over 3 years ago after 14 yrs of incarceration and was gainfully employed, and is presently starting his own business. Who can he contact to start this process of removing these negatives from his profile in the criminal systems of GA and other systems who do background checks for jobs, housing and etc.? Any feedback that will assist him in getting started to remove this will greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for any information we can use. 770-808-3732

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