UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oneida County is one of only two in the state offering a new, Misdemeanor Intervention Program to first-time, non-violent offenders accused of committing minor offenses. Sometimes, the offenders, too, are minors.
"At that young age, a lot of these kids don't understand that that's going to stick with them for the rest of their lives," says McNamara.
The D.A. adds that the program is being offered to first-time, non-violent offenders of all ages.
"Hopefully allowing them to see how significant this conviction could be to them as life continues down the road, maybe we can cut down on the amount of recidivism we see in some of these cases."
McNamara says the California-based company that administers the program throughout the country has seen recidivism rates plummet as low as 5%.
There's no cost to the county; the offender pays to attend an all-day class that takes the place of a criminal conviction, which, like prison, tends to follow an offender for the rest of their life.
"There's a lot of things that happen because of that. One, it's much more difficult to get a job," says McNamara. "That in itself is very painful and a lot of times people that have criminal convictions will come to me and say 'hey can I get my conviction undone? I can't get a job."
"I think anyone can benefit from it, but like all matters of personal responsibility, you have to want to understand how you got where you are," says Defense Attorney F Christopher Giruzzi.
The court, the prosecutor and most of all, the defendant, have to be in agreement for the program to be considered.
"If the defendant is not taking the program seriously, they're not going to get anything out of it and they're going to find themselves possibly back in the system," says Giruzzi.
The program is only a month old in Oneida County; too soon to tell if it's working. But D.A. McNamara is hopeful.
"I think any time we can try to do something to stop what we see and what everybody complains about is the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Any time that we can try something, I think it's worth it".