By DALLAS (CBS11)
Monday in Dallas County, justice was served in the form of second chances.
A diversion court program called AIM, which stands for Achieve Inspire Motivate, graduated its first five participants.
James Reddic was among them.
“I’m just glad to be free,” said Reddic, now 20. He was 17 when he made what he freely calls a stupid mistake. For three years the felony indictment has been both a burden and a roadblock. “I was struggling to get a job, couldn’t even get a basic job,” explained Reddic.
Without the program and the opportunity for options, Reddic suspects he would have soon been back on the road to prison. But, as a graduate of the program his record is wiped clean. “Now, I can dream,” said Reddic.
The AIM program was started about a year ago, but new Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson says she intends to keep it, saying the community is safer when young offenders are given second chances.
DA Johnson addressed the graduates Monday telling them, “We took a chance on you.”
Judge Brandon Birmingham oversees the program in the 292nd District Court.
He said the participants work to earn their second chances. They submit to drug testing, counseling and must stay in school or get a job. It is open to non-violent felony offenders between the ages of 18 and 24. Participants have been indicted, but not convicted of a crime. If they successfully complete the program, it is as if the crimes never happened.
“We’re not talking about murderers or child abusers,” said Judge Birmingham. “It’s basically people who have made some youthful indiscretions.”
According to the judge, helping non-violent offenders become better citizens makes the community safer in the long run.
“As they succeed a little bit, they’re going to want to succeed more, and they’re going to get better jobs and they’re going to be way more productive as members of our society had they been otherwise if they had been convicted,” said Judge Birmingham. “There are so many doors closed when you’re a convicted felon…you can’t vote for a certain amount of time, hard to get a job, …that leads to other things, all of those ancillary causes will be removed because we’re removing that barrier from future success.”
The inaugural graduating class of five leaves about 20 participants still working their way through the program. Judge Birmingham hopes to see the program expand.
As for Reddic, he hopes to either enter the Air Force and/or go to school to study construction management.
“I want to build this city,” said Reddic. “I want to open up new roads, new houses and buildings. I want to be known for something. I want to leave my mark.”
And with the mark of his mistake now removed, perhaps he can.