On March 21st four students completed the First Offender Program and had the opportunity of completely shredding their file, giving them a second chance and a fresh start.
The First Offender Program is a program created by the La Joya ISD Police Department which gives a second chance to juveniles who commit Class A or B misdemeanors or a state jail felony — with the exception of assault or crimes involving weapons — could be eligible for the voluntary program. La Joya ISD Police Chief Raul Gonzalez said the program, now in its sixth month, was spurred by a need to give minors between the ages of 10 and 16 a second chance at redemption.
“We’re putting the money where our mouth is with this program,” Gonzalez said. “If we really want to do something and we really want to make an impact on kids, then we have to look at this program.”
After the approval from the La Joya ISD board and the Hidalgo County board of judges, Gonzalez was provided with a first offender specialist to run the program, which allows minors with no prior arrests on their record to have their records wiped clean after completing a six-week course and an additional 90 days of probation.
“We’re going to let you go through a six-week program. Every Saturday for two hours we’re going to talk to you and teach you about how to be a better citizen, and then you’re going to be on a 90-day probation,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the program, we will literally shred the entire file and you will not have a record.”
During this time on a weekly basis, a different agency speaks to the group about different topics, including their home life, issues with drugs or alcohol and learning how to make good decisions.
“Everyone makes mistakes but they are not mistakes that you learn from the first time. This program is exactly what we need for these students to get back on track and with a fresh start, transforming the lives of these students so that in the near future they can transform our comminutes in a positive way,” stated Dr. Alda T. Benavides, Superintendent of Schools.
La Joya ISD is the first school district in the state to initiate the program and the second police department in Hidalgo County to have the program. With these types of opportunities La Joya ISD is truly transforming lives and transforming communities.