- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - Black Hills State University is rolling out a new program aimed at diverting students cited with minor, first-time alcohol-related charges to avoid the start of a criminal record.

The program requires students to give back to the university and the Spearfish community through various activities, such as writing a report about the effects of alcohol on the body or meeting with the dean of education to talk about how charges could affect a student’s chance of getting a teaching certificate. Students are also placed on a one-semester probationary period.

The diversion program is being implemented this fall and is the brainchild of pre-law student Brittany Thompson, who came up with it after volunteering in Lawrence County Teen Court as a teenager, The Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/2eBfXZm ) reported. Thompson said she would like to see a diversion program at every university.

The confidential program is run by nearly 20 student volunteers and is overseen by faculty members. The Lawrence County state’s attorney’s office refers cases to the program.

Students who successfully complete the program will have their records sealed, while students who fail the program are referred back to the state’s attorney’s office.

“I think that there’s a huge problem with our criminal justice system,” Thompson said. “If we could get our overall recidivism rate even half of what it is, I think that would be a win, and I think the way you start with that is with our youth.”

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com


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