Reset Jefferson County diverts people out of jails and prisons with a proportionate, effective, and meaningful response to low-level offending. Through Reset, participants avoid a criminal record and the court process, entirely, by completing community-based program requirements. The approach holds people accountable for their actions, strengthens public trust in the justice system, and creates opportunities for young, low-level offenders to move forward without the lifetime impediment of a felony conviction. Project Reset will launch in Fall 2021. More information about participating in the program is coming soon.
Why We Need It
Alabama prisons disproportionately harm Black Alabamians housed in deplorable conditions. Incarceration often begins with low-level offenses. Existing diversion programs are unduly burdensome for defendants–too costly and lengthy. Failure to complete programs results in a felony record and prison, and can lead to job loss and education disruption – systemic responses unequal to the crime.
Reset participants are held accountable without the life-altering punishment of a felony conviction and the financial burden of court or program costs. Participants are treated with dignity, and community partners address underlying issues that led to dangerous behavior. The program reduces the likelihood of future convictions and resolves cases faster, with less costs. Reset is meaningful justice reform for disproportionately impacted people of color.
Models of Success
Reset Jefferson County follows the evidence-based model of the Center for Court Innovation’s (CCI) successful Project Reset program in New York. CCI’s five year proven track record found that participants were significantly less likely than defendants in a comparison group to be convicted of a new crime within one year. The study also documented improved case processing times, case outcomes, and positive perceptions of the program. More than 95 percent of participants said they had made the right decision by entering the program and that they would recommend Project Reset to someone in a similar situation. (Source: Project Reset: An Evaluation of Pre- Arraignment Diversion Program in New York City.)
More information on New York’s Project Reset:
How It Works
In Jefferson County, more than 500 people aged 17-24 are arrested each year for low-level felonies, such as drug possession and forgery. In 2019, 75% of people arrested were Black residents, a significantly disproportionate number. Reset serves people in this cohort with first-time arrests who accept responsibility for their actions, and rather than appearing before a judge, choose to engage in a two-hour to four-hour session with a community provider that addresses root issues. Reset staff screen participants and refer to education workshops, group or individual counseling, restorative justice workshops or substance abuse counseling. Participants reflect on their accountability and discuss how to avoid future arrests.
When participants complete programming the prosecutor will decline to prosecute them, their record is cleared, and they won’t have to appear in court. Participants who do not complete programming are sent back to the court system.
Reset Jefferson County is made possible through District Attorney Danny Carr in partnership with Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and funded by the Instruments of Hope Unity Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. Implementation will involve law enforcement, the Public Defender’s Office, faith leaders, victims, participants, and people with lived experience. Community agencies will provide programming and counseling. If you are interested in becoming a program partner, please contact Carla Crowder at email@example.com or by phone at (205) 305-0735.
Contact: Carla Crowder