Our view: Programs offer pathway out for common college offenses

DKS Editors

For many students, part of college life involves a run-in with the law. It could be the result of having a few too many drinks.

But instead of pretending as if stuff like that doesn’t happen, the city of Kent lets students who go through a legal process off the hook.

Through diversion programs, students have the option to complete community service and an education program designed to prevent them from doing it again. In exchange for completing the program, the charge goes away, and the student’s legal record is wiped clean.

We think this is the fairest way to follow the law while adapting it to fit the community it governs. It both recognizes the student broke the law and allows for reparation. In a town full of underage drinkers, it’s not cost-effective to throw everyone caught red-handed in jail (even after the passage of Issue 4).

Focusing on education and positive reinforcement — rather than jail time and a permanent strike on the record — is a much smarter move. It allows students to confront the reasons they did what they did; maybe they hung out with the wrong crowd, or maybe they exhibit early signs of an addiction. This is especially important considering many of the underage drinkers are new to the college scene — freshmen and sophomores who need help and guidance instead of a permanent strike on their record.

Of course, these kinds of programs would not work for other, more serious offenses or repeat offenders. While we’re not sure the programs can actually prevent all future crime, it definitely forces the first offender to behave in a safer way. If you are caught walking down the street with a bottle, we believe you’ll probably think twice after completing the program.

Also, once in the program, the county gives students little wiggle room to abuse the system. If the work doesn’t get done, the student gets the sentence as dictated by the law. It’s not a right to have the program — it’s a privilege.