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First-time offenders can avoid jail

A bill signed into law during the legislative session will allow first-time and non-violent criminal offenders in Butler County to avoid jail time through individual counseling and supervision.

The 2nd Judicial Circuit’s Pretrial Diversion Bill was signed into law by Gov. Bob Riley, sponsored by Sen. Wendell Mitchell and Rep. Charles Newton, and spearheaded by District Attorney John Andrews.

“Several judicial circuits already have a program such as this,” said Andrews. “Gov. Bob Riley has asked that everyone work together to assist in easing overcrowding in the prison system through programs like pretrial diversion.”

Andrews said selected offenders would be supervised, monitored and be required to participate in a “highly individualized program aimed at preventing any future criminal activity.”

Andrews said first-time offenders make up a good number of his office’s caseload and many of them are young.

“Young people make mistakes,” said Andrews. “Pretrial diversion allows them to work to make-up for that mistake and avoid having a criminal record hanging around their neck like an albatross for the rest of their life.”

Andrews said the program is a cooperative effort, consisting of the DA’s office, law enforcement, counselors, and judges from Butler, Crenshaw, and Lowndes counties, all working to reduce crime and its impact on the community.

An advisory board, made up of volunteers, will also be established in each county to review and approve applicants, said Andrews.

He reiterated that those charged with violent crimes, sexual assaults, distributing drugs, and violations of game and fish laws will not be allowed to participate in this program. The program goes into effect July 1.