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Philadelphia Offers New Program for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

The war on drugs has resulted in countless numbers of people having to spend significant periods of time in prisons across the country. This comes at a very high cost, both financially and socially. States are forced to spend money they do not have on incarceration, and offenders are denied opportunities to change their lives. Reoffending is a major problem, which can trap many people into the system.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is implementing a new program designed to reduce the number of people being sent to prison for nonviolent felony drug crimes. According to the DA, 73 percent of Philadelphians who have been convicted of a crime will be rearrested within two-year time period. The Commonwealth spends roughly $40,000 per prisoner for each year of incarceration.

The program, called "The Choice is Yours," lasts for one year and is modeled after successful programs already in place in other cities. It aims to help young offenders get their lives back on track.

Instead of the $40,000 a year prison costs, participants in the program would only cost the state $5,000 to $8,000 per year. These costs are covered by grants from the Lenfest and William Penn Foundations. Participants will receive access to education, as well as job training. Successful completion of the program will result in their records being expunged.

Not every offender will be eligible to participate in the program, as there are limited space and funds available. If the offender gets in further trouble while in the program, he or she will be facing potential prison time and be ineligible to continue.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Program offers young offenders a different path" Joseph A. Slobodzian, March 22, 2012.

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