A press release from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office:
STATE’S ATTORNEY EXPANDING FIRST OFFENDER PROGRAM PROVEN TO SAVE MONEY AND REDUCE RECIDIVISM
The State’s Attorney has expanded its First Offender Program to include misdemeanor offenses.
The First Offender Program is designed to remove first-time, non-violent offenders from the criminal
justice system and divert them to a less costly process administered by the State’s Attorney’s Office with the cooperation of a panel of citizens that volunteer their time.
Specifically, a first-time offender charged with a crime writes out a statement admitting to the
offense, appears before a panel of citizens who are informed of the details of the offense and meet with the offender.
Thereafter, the panel of citizens place requirements on the offender that must be completed within a certain period of time. These requirements may include making full restitution to the victim,
writing a letter of apology, completing community service hours, obtaining a high school diploma, seeking counseling, and not committing further offenses.
Upon successful completion of these requirements, the offender’s case is dismissed. If the offender fails to complete the program successfully, the case is returned to the courts for prosecution.
Previously, this Program was only available to first-time felony offenders. For felony offenders, 81% of participants did not reoffend within three years of acceptance.
Of the Program, Kenneally stated:“The State’s Attorney’s Office recognizes that all of us confront difficult times that can lead to isolated decisions that we regret, do not necessarily define our character, and result in criminal charges.
While holding everyone that has violated the law accountable is paramount, inflexible approaches to prosecuting first-time offenders can cause unnecessary hardship by imposing criminal convictions that can have collateral consequences later in life. In addition and in most cases, it is imprudent to expend limited court resources, derived from taxpayers, formally prosecuting first-time, non-violent offenders.”