First-time marijuana possession offenders get second chance in Harris County

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HOUSTON, Tx. - A progressive marijuana criminal justice policy... in Texas?!

Under the First Chance Intervention Program in Harris County, first-time offenders for possession of two ounces of marijuana or less will be given the option to avoid jail, trial, and a record. It`s been an option since October 2014, but was up to the arresting officer to offer it.

In a press conference Thursday, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said, “The majority of people are getting this program in the courts and not on the streets, and that is not the way I want this program to work.”

But come January 1st, 2016, it`s mandatory that before a suspect is formally charged, they be offered the program if they qualify, and given a chance to avoid a record that follows them forever.

Over 1500 first-time offenders have completed the program already and over 90% have yet to re-offend.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition traveled to Seattle where a similar program has been active since 2011.

Jay Jenkins with TCJC says, “Seattle saw a reduction in recidivism amongst participants in their program and they saved an average of $8,000 per defendant, per year, in the program.”

A “First Chance” program that gives people a second chance at being upstanding citizens. Perhaps ideas like this catch on quick. If that's the case, law enforcement will have a chance to stop filling our courts and prisons with low-level, non-violent offenders.



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