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Broward programs hope to give second chances to first-time offenders

A Florida appeals court says remote legal hearings are constitutional.
Broward College announced a new diversion programs that allow some first-time offenders take college courses instead of going to trial.

Broward College announced two new diversion programs that pave the way for educational and employment opportunities for first-time offenders.

As part of its Court to College Diversion program, some first-time offenders can take college courses instead of going to trial. This opportunity only applies to nonviolent offenders in cases in which the victim agrees — a "hallmark" feature of the program.

In unveiling the program on Tuesday, Broward County state attorney Harold Pryor said students will get a second chance to learn the needed skills to become successful in the workforce.

“Children do make mistakes, and they do commit crimes. But not all crimes have the same severity nor should all mistakes follow them around for the rest of their lives,” he said.

The program is a collaboration between the Broward County State Attorney’s Office and the Law Office of the Public Defender, according to a statement from Broward College.

Tuition is free, so long as the person listed as the victim in the case agrees to the conditions. Funding will also cover books and the costs of certification exams.

Those participating can receive industry-recognized certificates for a variety of jobs. Among them: automotive service, logistics and transportation specialists, or marine electrician.

"We are changing lives while making our community safer by striving not to see these individuals in the court system ever again," Pryor said.

The participants' charges are dropped when they complete the program.

Under another new program called the Corrections to College, educational opportunities are available to those housed at the Hollywood Community Release Center, which serves only women who are in the last 18-months of their sentence.

Women can access academic counseling and transition services both prior to their release and afterward to encourage enrollment at Broward College, program officials said.

This program will offer the following certifications: Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Supply Chain Management, Marketing (Digital and Social Media) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Practitioner Technical Essential.

Learn more about the programs here.

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