By Steve Elliott
Law enforcement officials in the most populous county in Texas on Monday started a new program giving nonviolent first time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana a chance to avoid a criminal conviction.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police and the Harris County District Attorney's Office is offering a new initiative called the "First Chance Intervention Program," D.A. Devon Anderson announced on Wednesday, reports KFOR-TV.
"Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system," Anderson said. "This program is not for everyone. We are targeting people we believe are self-correcting, those who will be scared straight."
"I think it, overall, will improve people's lives," Anderson said.
Under the new program, first-time marijuana offenders with no prior criminal history who are caught with up to two ounces of marijuana can avoid being charged if they successfully complete eight hours of community service or an eight-hour class.
"Better education, as to where it can lead them, is a whole lot better than putting them in the federal pen, prison systems, where they become hardened, repeat offenders," said Charlotte Farmer.
"Too often, we see young people, with the promise of an incredible future in front of them, make mistakes that then begin a spiral downwards," said Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.