Program Gives First Offenders Second Chance

Nineteen year-old Rachelle McCaffrey says she wants to stay on this side of the jail cell, because two years ago she had a scarry look from the other side.

"You see how nasty it is," McCaffrey says as she shows us the jail cell.

McCaffrey stayed in this bed here in the Ocean Springs jail for a week.

Her boyfriend at the time was convicted of burglarizing two vehicles.

While police believe she was not directly involved, she was still arrested and charged because she was there at the time and did nothing to stop him.

McCaffrey was facing four years behind bars then she found the Pre-Trial Diversion Program.

McCaffrey says it has changed her life.

"I used to stay out late at night. Now I'm normally in bed by 11 o'clock. I feel whole lot better. My day goes better. My conversations with people are a lot better. I don't feel as grumpy. I'm getting my sleep. I feel alive, I feel actually like a person, instead of a night-walker," McCaffrey says.

But McCaffrey isn't the only person on this Pre-Trial Diversion Program.

Officials say more than 100 first-offenders in Jackson County are on the program right now.

They hope to add another 100 by the end of the year.

"It gives an 18, 19, 25 year old a second chance or even a 40 year old that's never been in trouble before. Instead of ruining their life and going to jail, or going into a probation program that will stay on their record forever, they get to come out of this with nothing on their record," Pre-Trial Diversion Director Mark Spicer says.

Spicer says in order for clients to complete the program, they must take random drug-tests, work or study full-time, get a GED, take rehabilitation classes weekly, and report all contact with law-enforcement.

McCaffrey says she's doing all of these things.

Now, she can look into what used to be her future and know it's all in the past.