COLLEGE SPOTLIGHT: SVCC Collaborates with Local Prosecutors on Alternative Sentencing
Submitted by Christie Hales, SVCC
“As prosecutors we are always looking for sentencing alternatives. Probation and/or incarceration doesn’t fit every case, but often these are the only options we have,” said Lezlie Green, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Brunswick County.
Southside Virginia Community College now offers a diversion program in collaboration with the Commonwealth Attorneys of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Greensville counties. Designed as an alternative sentencing option for approved criminal offenses, the program serves offenders between the ages of 18 and 25.
Diversion is an attempt to redirect, educate and rehabilitate young adults who commit and plead guilty to offenses approved by the local prosecutor for the diversion program. Diverting youth who have committed approved criminal offenses away from the system and toward community-based treatment and support options can be a more appropriate response than confinement, and a more productive way of addressing and preventing future criminal behavior.
Green noted, “The diversion program is a great example of tailoring available resources to fit the needs of the community — criminal justice needs and rehabilitation needs. Our goal is to move a person from a path which will likely lead to incarceration to a path which will likely lead to job stability and good citizenship.”
She also said that SVCC heard their needs and built a program which addresses them, using resources already in place. This has resulted in a partnership between the college, community corrections and the courthouse, which will benefit not only Brunswick County, but also the entire SVCC service area.
The mission of this program is to rehabilitate, redirect, and develop successful, productive, citizens for an ever-changing global society by using formal education, counseling, discipline and life skills development. Its goals are Personal Responsibility, Reducing Recidivism, Providing Services, Workforce Preparedness, and helping students obtain a Career Studies Certificate.
Offenders can only participate in the program if referred by the local Commonwealth’s Attorney and the judge who has jurisdiction over their case. The program will consist of cohorts that begin and finish the program together. The timing and frequency of new cohort start dates are determined by the needs of the participating counties.
Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Alfonzo R. Seward, is the program head. Various instructors will provide the classroom content.
Seward said, “This is an awesome opportunity if the individual accepted into the program takes advantage of it and works to complete it successfully.”
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