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City Communications Office

City of Kansas City, Mo.

www.kcmo.org

CONTACT: City Communications Office, 816-513-1349

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 3, 2011

City establishes Diversion Program for first-time offenders

The City of Kansas City, Mo., City Prosecutor’s Office announces the establishment of the Diversion Program, a new initiative that provides eligible first-time offenders an opportunity to accept responsibility for their offenses while giving them a second chance to keep and hold a clean record.

The Diversion Program will accept first-time offenders who prosecutors believe would benefit most from the offense-tailored counseling and education services that participating social service agencies will provide participants. Only offenders with non-violent City ordinance violations will be considered for admission. Most traffic offenses will not be eligible.

Defendants applying to the program must be represented by an attorney and agree to admit guilt prior to admission. An applicant may be declined for admission to the program if the overriding interests of public safety and the rights of any victims are not adequately served by diversion. A defendant who fails to complete the program will return to court for sentencing by a judge. If the program is successfully completed, however, the case will be dismissed.

The program, developed by City Prosecutor Lowell Gard and First Assistant City Prosecutor Megan Pfannenstiel, is expected to have a marked impact on recidivism and a positive effect on participants’ lives.

“The City Prosecutor’s Diversion Program doesn’t benefit just the court and community. If a college student has a marijuana possession charge and it’s his first offense, he stands to lose quite a lot,” Gard said. “The Diversion Program focuses on first offenders because they’re the most likely to respond favorably to education and guidance. We hope we will never see them in court again.”

Gard added that the program will reduce courtroom caseloads and will support a restorative justice approach to quality of life crimes in our community. Reducing court-monitored probation of first-time offenders will allow judges more time to better deal with the problems frequently posed by repeat offenders.

The City Prosecutor’s Office believes this program has an excellent chance of reducing recidivism because of the high level of success of other court diversion programs. For example, the Municipal Mental Health Court’s Diversion Program has reduced repeat offenses committed by program participants by more than 60 percent over the last eight years.

For additional information, please contact City Prosecutor Lowell Gard at 816-513-3807.

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