Prosecutor explains how it will work
new program being established by the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office gives an additional treatment court option for certain offenders.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says the new program is the Platte Community Alternative with Restorative and Educational Services (Platte CARES).
The new program will offer first-time, non-violent misdemeanor or felony offenders the opportunity to avoid a criminal record if they admit their wrongdoing, perform community service, remain crime-free and drug-free, and work or continue their education.
Goals of the program are to reduce court caseloads, decrease jail population. It intends to do so by intervening with first-time non-violent offenders, hopefully diverting most participants from future involvement with the criminal justice system for the rest of their lives.
“And because we know a misdemeanor or felony record can have adverse consequences for a lifetime, Platte CARES is designed to achieve these goals while participants avoid their first misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction,” Zahnd said.
Zahnd explains the program this way:
After admitting their guilt and with consultation of crime victims, Platte CARES participants avoid charges or convictions by agreeing to complete personalized assignments based on their crimes and backgrounds. Over a period of six months to two years, every participant will perform community service and agree not to commit additional crimes.
Participants will be screened for drug and alcohol problems and will be assigned treatment and drug or alcohol testing where needed. Participants will also be expected to work at a job or continue their education. Participants may complete individual assignments based on the nature of their crimes and their rehabilitative needs.
If a participant victimized another person, the participant will be required to make restitution and, if the victim desires, engage in a restorative justice program where the participant will meet with and apologize to the victim. Participants who fail to complete their assignments will be expelled from the program, and the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will file the criminal charges originally submitted.
Platte CARES is offered at a fixed cost of $300 for participants, with all fees waived for participants unable to afford the program. The program does not accept participants who are eligible for Platte County’s Drug, DWI, Veterans, or Wellness (Mental Health) Court programs.
The Platte CARES leadership team consists of Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, assistant prosecuting attorneys Amy Ashelford and Brice Barnard, and program coordinator Eric Allen, a former Missouri Probation and Parole Officer.
Zahnd said a Community Advisory Board also helps guide Platte CARES.