Department of Community Mental Health and Westchester District Attorney’s Office collaboration begins to serve people in new criminal justice diversion model.

Fresh Start, a joint initiative of Westchester County Executive George Latimer and District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah became operational and has officially served its first five individuals. 

Through the program, the DA’s Office identifies qualified first-time non-violent criminal offenders and provides them an opportunity to avoid prosecution and the potential for a criminal record. The current Fresh Start pilot project serves the Greenburgh and White Plains communities.

Latimer said: “These are the things that collaboration across County government can do. By working together, we can develop and implement new models, new programs, and new ways to improve people’s lives. The end result of these kinds of efforts is safer communities, lower crime rates, and fewer people with lives saddled with criminal convictions.”

To complete the program, people who would otherwise have to appear in court and go through the criminal justice process participate in a 3 hour facilitated session, provided as an adjunct to Westchester County’s highly respected Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC).

DA Rocah said: “We are thrilled to expand our community-based diversion efforts for first-time, low level offenders by offering an exciting and innovative program that starts with the simple idea that people deserve second chances, and incarceration is not always the answer. Fresh Start breaks the destructive cycle of recidivism by focusing on rehabilitation instead of incarceration for certain types of crime. We are happy to partner with County Executive George Latimer and the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health on this offering.”

Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth said: “This is a big step in the effort to identify people who can early on be diverted from the criminal justice system. We know that a certain percentage of those who commit lower level criminal offenses, unless they participate in some type of intervention, can go on to commit more serious offenses. Fresh Start identifies those with lower level charges at the earliest possible opportunity, and works to redirect them away from potential criminal behavior. Today a small group of people made that big step for the first time in Westchester County.”

While only serving two municipalities now, Fresh start is anticipated to go county-wide in the future.