Durham gives first-time offenders second chance
Posted October 23, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A recent drug sting in Durham put nearly two dozen suspected drug dealers behind bars, but as police were rounding up criminals, they gave seven an alternative to jail.
Durham police say 28 people were caught selling drugs during an operation where officers made undercover buys, but Assistant Police Chief Jon Peter said investigators researched the backgrounds of each and found seven had no previous criminal history.
"We felt they deserved a second chance," Peter said. "They don't go to jail, they don't have a felony arrest and they are provided some resources."
Gudrun Parmer, director of the Criminal Justice Resource Center, which offers job, education and drug assistance, said two of the seven have already met with him.
When plausible, giving people an alternative to jail is a great strategy, Parmer said.
"When someone has a criminal record, it can be very detrimental to their chances of being employed, finding housing and even going to school," she said.
If the seven avoid any other drug-related or violent offenses for a year, their record will remain clean, and they'll spend no time behind bars. If any are arrested on another felony or serious misdemeanor charge in the next year, the charges from the drug operation will be activated.
At $98 a day to house each inmate in the Durham County jail, Peter said it's worth the effort to keep them out.
"If they're not a violent felon, it's worth giving them a chance," he said. "If they are a violent felon, we'll see them again, and if they change their ways, we have much less of an expense and burden on the community."