A new program in northwest Ohio aims to help criminals instead of punish them. Rather than being locked up, lawbreakers in several local counties now have a day-reporting program as a second option and a second chance to better their lives.
Officials at the courthouse in Fremont are calling it a "one-stop shop." Rather than put people in jail for their crimes, they're allowing some of them to get help.
"I got picked up by an officer because I was out in public while intoxicated," said Brandy Seabrook, who is joining the NO-BARS program.
For the next few weeks, Seabrook will be sporting an alcohol-monitoring bracelet. The judge gave her two choices: Go behind bars or become one of the first people to take part in NO-BARS.
"I'm kind of excited. It's something new. I look forward to doing it, rather than the other option!" said Seabrook.
NO-BARS stands for Northwest Ohio Behavior and Reporting Services. People charged with misdemeanors will spend evenings and weekends getting treatment, including for drug and alcohol abuse, along with anger management.
"We are able to place a person on an alcohol-monitoring device. In the past, that device has cost $14 a day. The average, working person could not afford $14 a day," explained Daniel Sanchez, Chief Probation Officer with the Fremont Municipal Court.
While the program comes at no cost to the offender, officials say it has the potential to save millions of dollars for residents.
"It's going to reduce our local jail population, which essentially is going to save the taxpayers of Sandusky County money," said Sanchez.
NO-BARS will be available to offenders in Sandusky, Ottawa, Seneca and Huron counties. The main goal is rehabilitation.
"If somebody cannot commit another crime because they've had some other treatment, that's a win-win for us. We get less calls, they don't commit the crimes, and we have a happier community," said Chief Tim Wiersma with the Fremont Police Department.
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