For a select few, there’s a program called Swift, Certain and Fair. The pilot program is sponsored by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Service and aimed at young offenders, typically age 16 to 24, who are likely to be either the perpetrators or victims of gun violence. A screening process identifies those who might be able to turn their lives around, to get out of the lifestyle that led them to this point in their lives, if they’re given the right support and guidance.
“We don’t want somebody who has no previous criminal record,” says List. “That’s not a challenge. We know how to help those kids.”
These are individuals who’ve already had some legal issues, maybe some gang involvement. The hope is that an intense program can help them find a better path,
In addition to electronic monitoring, there’s a written contract which outlines the behavior required to stay in the program, and the consequences that occur if there is a violation.
“We’ve learned from the drug court model that if there’s a swift response and a proportionate sanction, that changes behavior,” said David Fluellen, who supervises the team of probation officers that deal with these offenders.
If an SCF participant has a new arrest, for example, he’s going to prison. If he doesn’t show up for school or work, the consequences may not be as severe, but they are pre-defined, and they’ll be handed down right away.
The screening process identified 120 candidates for the SCF program but only five have been selected so far. It’s a small sample, but the program seems to be working. None of the participants have committed a new gun crime, none have flunked out of the program.
“These are really tough guys,” Fluellen says. “If not for Swift, Certain and Fair they would be in state prison. For these guys to be succeeding, I think we’re on to something here.”