An alternative sentencing measure used in Cook County can now be used across the state. A new law allows non-violent, first-time offenders to enter into the Offender Initiative Program. With the approval of a judge and the state’s attorney, an offender can be placed in a diversion program, similar to probation, instead of being incarcerated.
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The offender would have to meet certain requirements such as making restitution, performing community service or holding a job. Receiving substance abuse treatment and passing drug tests are also possible if appropriate to the crime. If the offender successfully completes the program, the state’s attorney can request a dismissal and expungement of the original charges. If the offender reoffends within five years, those expunged records may be used against him in court. A pilot program has been in place in Cook County since February 2011. A total of 645 individuals have entered into the program. The program has seen a 70 percent success rate. According to the county about $1.1 million was saved through the program due to lower court and incarceration costs.