SMART program offers help to low-level misdemeanor offenders

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — San Diego has seen a dramatic increase in misdemeanor offenders since Prop-47 was passed two years ago.

The justice system hasn’t had the resources to prevent them from repeating their crimes, but that’s about to change.

The City of San Diego launched a pilot program Monday to break this revolving door syndrome that drains resources without breaking this cycle.

It’s called "SMART." It provides a bed, treatment for all sorts of addictions and counseling to allow these low-level offenders to turn their lives around.

The program comes out of the City Attorney’s office and begins small, just 10 beds. It will target offenders in the police department’s central division.

These low-level offenders have drug, alcohol or mental health issues with some living on the streets.

"These chronic offenders are well-known by police, our courts and prosecutors," said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. "They just keep on repeating offenses and their conduct, and they don’t get help, and we don’t get help. Smart offers a different approach."

If the offenders are willing to participate, they will get the help they need for up to two years.

"if they don’t accept help however there is, this is still in the criminal justice system, and their still is a stick that none of us want to use," Goldsmith said.

Meaning, they will end up in jail.

"our traditional criminal justice approach has been guided by a lock-em up mentality and has resulted in an ineffective revolving door of incarceration all at tremendous human and financial cost," said Kellen Russonielle of the ACLU.

SMART gives them the change to get their lives back on track.

Up until now, offenders have been recycled through the system without suffering the consequences of their actions.

"There are no real programs at the city level that address the issues all of these clients have," said Mark Ruiz of the ACLU.

"if it works like we think it will we’ll be able to set aside additional and significant resources to expand the program in the near future," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

Initially, the city will provide the beds with treatment at the county’s community clinics.

"both their housing and their treatment will be overseen by case managers who give them individualized attention," Goldsmith said.

"It is going to help bridge the gap between the supportive care and services that are needed for the chronic offenders that are stuck in the revolving door," said San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

"when we have a pilot that can work, and I’m confident that it can, it becomes a lot easier to get the dollars invested," Mayor Faulconer said.

If the program shows progress, the city will apply for $3 million in Prop-47 funds to expand it citywide.

Categories: Local San Diego News