Pilot Delgado partnership aims to help non-violent offenders

NEW ORLEANS - While violent crime grabs a lot of headlines in our city, the fact is that a good number of people arrested are charged with non-violent offenses.

Many of those offenders are given sentences that don't necessarily address the causes of crime, namely poverty and lack of education, but a new partnership with Delgado Community College and Orleans Criminal Court Section K aims to help. It's called Delgado Forward.

"We were approached by Judge (Arthur) Hunter to see if we would be interested in partnering with him on developing some alternative opportunities for individuals he had coming through his courtroom, so it's really his brainchild," Dr. Arnel Cosey, Delgado vice chancellor of student affairs, explains.

Participants in the pilot program are given a choice of three paths to learn or train in an effort to not only better themselves, but more importantly to not repeat a bad decision.

Division K Judge Arthur Hunter says there's great incentive to do good, but also consequences if not.

"Number 1, they have to be serious about the program, and if they're not serious about the program they'll see me again and I won't be pleasant," Hunter says. "As an incentive, if they do complete the program, either getting a two-year degree or one of the workforce trades, I can dismiss the charges and their records could be expunged also."

Among the participants is 18-year-old Jamal Brown.  He told us that this is time much better spent than sitting in a cell, and that he has dreams he'd like to fulfill.

"To have a second chance beats being locked down," Brown says. "I want to finish college but I also want to build up from a degree to become an artist."

Participants in the program must be assigned to Delgado Forward through the court system. You can get information by calling Delgado's Single Stop office at 504-671-6563.