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St. Joseph County offers rehabilitation for Domestic Violence offenders that are committed to changing

Saint Joseph County is taking a new approach to domestic violence.

A unique program between the County and the Prosecutors office aims to rehabilitate domestic abusers who want help.

“If a person has harmed a loved one and that person is willing to change then this program is for you” ST. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said.

The program is one that seeks to set domestic abusers up with treatment instead of prison

The program is funded through an annual grant that totals $123,500.

The grant funded program that began in July 2016 allows felony domestic violence offenders to go through treatment and a subsequent supervision program

The Prosecutors office decides if a person is eligible for the program based on prior criminal history, employment, and the likelihood they will commit a crime again

Judge Elizabeth Hurley that presides over these cases says the change starts with the offender

“If you want to be successful in the program you have to want to change what got you there in the first place” Judge Hurley said.

Most often the abusers  in this program are level 5 and 6 felony offenders

In that case level 5 offenders have the opportunity to be dropped to a level 6 and level 6 offenders can be dropped down to a Misdemeanor charge

There are steps each offender has to complete which includes a 40-week batterers intervention program

“They have to earn their way through this program it's a very intense, it's not meant as a easy way out or anything like that” Chief Probation Officer Jesse Carlton said.

Judge Hurley says this program has the victims and their family in mind

“Obviously we are dealing with families, often time children and people that care about each other, people that are supposed to love one another and not hurt each other and so the people that are involved in that program have to be committed to changing that behavior. If they are committed to changing that behavior this program will give them the skills to do it” said Judge Hurley.

There are currently 23 people in the program and the whole program lasts approximately 18 months.

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