“I’m proud of most of the work we do here, but what I really want people to know is that we spend a lot of time trying to keep people from going to jail and we spend a lot of time trying to make sure they don’t go back,” he said. “We’re not invisible here in DeKalb County, but this is a national award and to be honored for something you really work hard at is pretty cool and means a lot.”
James first began working on the Anti-Recidivism Court program, which was first called the Jobs not Jail program, when he was solicitor general for the county.
The goal of the program was to provide vocational based learning and cognitive therapy to misdemeanor offenders to try and stop them from becoming repeat offenders. James said he knew once he became the district attorney in 2010 that he wanted to try the program in the felony realm.
“Often times the only difference between misdemeanor and felony crimes is what drug someone is holding or how much money someone has stolen,” James said. “These seem like arbitrary distinctions but when looking at an individual and trying to assess whether that person is high risk there is often times not a lot of difference when comparing nonviolent offenses. So when I became the district attorney, I wanted to start implementing the program for felons.”
The rigorous program, which requires school enrollment to gain a high school diploma, random drug screenings, cognitive behavioral therapy, intense monitoring and successful completion is a condition of bond and release for nonviolent offenders who enter the program.
James said ultimately, his goal is to make the community a safer place by prosecuting and removing violent criminals from the streets, but also by identifying nonviolent criminals and using alternative programs to stop more crimes from being committed.
“It really is about public safety and I’m proud that we’ve been recognized for our effort and time spent on prevention in our community,” he said.