The Omaha pilot program offers a second chance to those arrested on minor charges

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – The city of Omaha on Tuesday unveiled a pilot program designed to give those arrested for certain minor offenses a second chance.

City Prosecutor, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, and the city’s human rights and relations department, along with Mayor Jean Stothert, attended a press conference announcing the city’s new restorative justice diversion program.

Individuals facing DUI and bodily harm are not eligible. However, in some cases, as a distraction, people who are in drug or traffic court and subject to minor offenses – and have low crime levels at all – are recommended to do community service. And if they don’t have any trouble for six months after that, the charges are dismissed and their records are sealed.

“The Restorative Justice Program offers second chances,” said Stothert. “It gives them options. You don’t have to jump into the program, but it is an option you can have for a second chance. “

Penalty fee diversion programs are not a new concept. Almost 1,200 people went through the criminal distraction in 2019 with a 69% graduation rate.

The program was also tested this summer on a handful of people arrested during the social justice protests in Omaha. In some cases, city prosecutors offered diversion to five adults and 11 teenagers for those arrested for resisting arrest, obstruction or disorder.

The program was proposed by Deputy Chief Michele Bang and the President of the Omaha Police Officers Association, Tony Conner, to provide an alternative to normal law enforcement measures. There is no additional cost to the program as existing staff conduct the four-hour courses and the 12 hours of community service are managed by existing programs.

“I believe it will send a message to the Omaha community that we’re not just telling you and talking to you – we’re ready to communicate and have an authentic dialogue,” said Franklin Thompson, director of human rights and relationships at Omaha.

The sessions gave both officers and attendees an opportunity to be heard, which led to better understanding, the mayor said in the press release.

“Often times, people arrested for minor violations are not at their best. They can be angry or drunk and often misunderstand the law, ”she said.

Thompson said he hoped that both officers and those arrested can learn from each other, about their prospects and find a way to move forward.

Watch the full press conference

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