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Enhanced second chance program equips participants to succeed

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Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis announced an enhanced second chance pretrial diversion program called "Burden to Blessing." Designed for young, non-violent offenders who choose to take responsibility for their actions and want a better future, this 6- to 12-month innovative, affordable probation program includes life and job skills training aimed at putting participants on a more successful path than the one that led to their arrest.

The enhanced program funnels all diversion applicants into a substantial life skills experience called "Super Saturday," where they learn how to identify triggers and navigate life more intentionally. After that, participants may opt-in to the "5-Night Rewrite," which is filled with intensive career building skills to help kick-start their career.  (For a short video on how this program changed a graduate's life, visit: www.CollinCountyDA.com/PTD).

Dozens of employers participate by hiring program participants and graduates. "These employers find it makes good business sense to hire those who've mastered basic life skills like punctuality, handling adversity, and conflict resolution. Successful graduates get their case expunged in addition to gaining the skills and mindset that enable them to grow stronger and wiser through life's ups and downs," added Willis. 

The personal, family, and community benefits are enormous. The program teaches core life concepts like accountability, responsibility, and adaptability, as well as core job skills needed to thrive in a career.

Willis instituted a diversion program when he first took office in 2011, resulting in thousands of first-time offenders having their records erased. However, Willis noticed that participants who lacked family and social support were less likely to succeed in the program. "We've found that it's a positive thing to give someone a second chance. But we've also found that if we don't equip people to take full advantage of it, it can be an opportunity lost."

While Covid-19 has temporarily paused the second chance initiative, it allowed Willis' office and its nonprofit diversion programming partner, Pivot Talent Group, to retool and further enhance the program, which should resume as summer begins.   Upgrades to the program include a streamlined application process, a user-friendly webpage, and life skills and resources for all participants.