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Brooklyn program lets low-level offenders take art class instead of going to court

A criminal record can leave a mark in any number of ways, but officials in Brooklyn, New York, are trying to make it easier for people to avoid such snags.

Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn’s district attorney, this week announced a program the borough’s been testing that allows certain offenders to enroll in community programs as opposed to being prosecuted, meaning that fewer people will have criminal records or have to pay the costs associated with court appearances.

The program is called Project Reset. It’s one of the latest examples of a pretrial diversion program that’s part of an ongoing push for criminal justice reform across the U.S.

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Project Reset will be an option for individuals charged with any of 18 listed misdemeanors, including making graffiti, criminal trespassing or criminally using drug paraphernalia, to go through this program instead of be given a court date.

Individuals who qualify will be given choice of completing a two-hour course at the Brooklyn Museum, where they’ll discuss a piece of art that’s related to social justice or prison reform and then create their own art in response to that discussion, or attend a 90-minute meeting at Brooklyn Justice Initiatives, where they can talk with social workers about situations “that they feel escalated unnecessarily and resulted in regrettable outcomes,” according to a statement from the District Attorney.


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