A group of first-time felony drug offenders will get the chance for a clean slate and job training under a new program that Baltimore's top prosecutor said will ease a cycle of incarceration and unemployment.
The Aim to B'More program for people convicted of nonviolent crimes will place 30 participants on three years of probation. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's office will help expunge their records if they complete the program, which also requires community service, a five-month internship and finding employment.
Mosby said young people seeking "instant gratification" don't always realize that a felony conviction on their record can prevent them from getting a job or housing.
"So what other recourse do they have but to go out doing what they were doing in the first place?" she said as she announced the program Thursday at the Center for Urban Families in Mondawmin. "I can tell you as the state's attorney for Baltimore City, this presents a public safety concern."
Participants in Aim to B'More will attend the center's STRIVE program, which teaches job-readiness and other skills.
Mosby said the court system is clogged with cases and that she wants to focus on prosecuting violent offenders. Those in Aim to B'More will receive probation before judgment.
"I would prefer to utilize the inundated courts for the worst of the worst and give our young people a second chance at redemption," Mosby said. "People talk about Baltimore's crime problem, but what isn't talked about is the real issue at hand: systemic poverty."
LifeBridge Health, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the JumpStart construction training program and other organizations will provide internships, Mosby said.
Aim to B'More is Mosby's latest community-oriented effort. She also started the Junior State's Attorney Program and Great Expectations, a program in which prosecutors, social workers, police officers and others visit fourth-graders and describe their work.
The new program is modeled after one developed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris. A former prosecutor, Harris created the "Back on Track" re-entry program for nonviolent offenders when she was district attorney of San Francisco.
Mosby's office did not provide information about how much Aim to B'More will cost. Spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said the office plans to seek grants to pay for it.
About 10 people have started or been approved for Aim to B'More, said Deborah Spector, the deputy director of crime control and prevention in Mosby's office.
One of them is Shyheim Holly, 19, who recently pleaded guilty to a felony drug offense. Holly, who wants to become a registered nurse, said he is excited about the educational and career opportunities.
His mother, Shanee Myers, 50, called the opportunity "a blessing" for her son.
"I want him to learn especially how to deal with peer pressure," she said.
A felony conviction can haunt a young person for years, preventing them from being allowed to apply to rent at certain apartment complexes and keeping them out of many jobs, said Shirome Owens, 32, who completed the STRIVE program and has a drug record.
"What I was doing at 19, 20, 21 is still affecting me," Owens said.
People interested in the program can email Spector at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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