Graduating class grows for district attorney’s recidivism reduction program

A diversion program designed to stop repeat incarceration and organized by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office recently had its largest graduating class.

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced on July 27 that 15 young adults had graduated from her office’s pretrial diversion program, called STRIDE.

“STRIDE, which stands for Stopping Trends of Repeat Incarceration with Diversion and Education, is a voluntary diversion program that holds young adults accountable for serious nonviolent crimes they have committed, while also ensuring their civic and career opportunities remain intact,” stated a press release from the district attorney’s office.

Boston and her team introduced STRIDE in 2019. Six participants graduated in the first cohort of the program in October 2020, and 12 participants graduated as part of the second cohort in April 2022.

“STRIDE allows young adults who make a mistake to learn from it without permanently damaging their future opportunities,” said Boston. “Our goal was to develop a program that reduces incarceration and interrupts the cycle of recidivism. Rather than label these young people as criminals, we have given them the opportunity to become role models and contributing members of our community.”

According to the district attorney’s website, STRIDE participants must be 17 to 24 years old, reside in DeKalb County, and meet one of three requirements: the charge is out of guidelines for normal pretrial diversion; they have had prior contact with the justice system, including juvenile justice, or more than one felony pending; or they are at high risk for re-offending/lack supportive structures to complete pretrial diversion independently, states a press release.

Participants pledge to remain crime free and not possess weapons during the program, and they are required to take part in a series of interventions and educational opportunities. In exchange for successfully completing the program, Boston said the district attorney’s office will dismiss charges.

“We cannot continue to use the same approaches and expect different results,” said Boston. “STRIDE is a different approach, and it is yielding exciting results. Since our program began in 2020, more than 30 young adults have graduated with new job opportunities, fresh confidence in themselves, and a renewed sense of civic responsibility. I look forward to their future success.”

A ceremony for the 15 participants graduating from the third cohort of the STRIDE program took place in July.

During the ceremony, one STRIDE graduate addressed her fellow graduates and their families.

“There once was a time where if you made a mistake just simply being a careless kid, the trajectory of your whole life could change in the blink of an eye,” she said. “I thank everybody for helping us reclaim the best versions of ourselves. It’s truly amazing the roller coaster that life is. To watch a terrible moment, like being arrested, turn into such a beautiful moment like this is truly a gift.”

According to officials, graduates successfully completed a 12-month program that encompassed several requirements, including monthly meetings, full-time work or school, cognitive behavioral counseling, community service, civic engagement, acts of restorative justice, and a book-based presentation.

STRIDE partners include RED Inc., WorkSource DeKalb, American Alternative Court Services and Acivilate, stated officials.

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