Platte County rolls out diversion program for non-violent, first time offenders

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. — First time, non-violent offenders in Platte County can now take advantage of a program to wipe the slate clean.

“One of the things that we as prosecutors have to do is separate the bad people who need to go to prison from the good people who just made a mistake,” explained Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.

The Platte CARES program applies to first-time, non-violent offenders for both misdemeanor and felony cases.

“There are bad people who need to go to prison, and we’re going to continue to send those people to prison,” Zahnd said. “But there are also a lot of good people, often times young people, who’ve just made a mistake.”

Participants in the program will be expected to admit wrongdoing, perform community service, remain crime and drug free, and work continue their education.

“If you’re not willing to do everything that we require you to do in this program you’re going to fail the program,” Zahnd said. “And unfortunately, you’re going to be charged with your crime and you’re going to get that criminal history that we’re trying to avoid.”

Participation in the program costs $300.

The Platte CARES program also aims to reduce jail crowding, slash caseloads in the courtroom and cut down on recidivism.

Zahnd says, in many cases, even the victims involved in a crime don’t want to see an offender branded with a permanent criminal record.

“First-time marijuana users, we’ll see people who have stolen money from their employer, or from, often times, people steal money from relatives if they have a drug problem.”

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