Marianne Lynch Credit: Courtesy of James Daigle

The Penobscot County district attorney recently offered 15 defendants facing shoplifting charges the chance to avoid having criminal records by participating in a newly created diversion program.

The 15 defendants, all of them first-time offenders, took District Attorney Marianne Lynch up on the offer, and they attended a two-hour educational program dealing with issues related to substance use at the Bangor Area Recovery Network in Brewer. Everyone she offered the chance to participate in the program did, Lynch said.

Topics covered included: health issues associated with substance use, available treatment resources in the community and collateral consequences associated with criminal convictions.

“A theft conviction, even for a shoplifting, can have a significant negative impact on future job prospects,” Lynch said. “As a result of their participation, 15 defendants saw their theft convictions for shoplifting dismissed. It is hoped these individuals take advantage of this second chance and are able to maintain a record free of convictions.”

Lynch hopes to offer the diversion program to people charged with nonviolent minor crimes, but expanding it will depend on whether funding sources can be identified.

“The success of this program will be measured in recidivism rates of the participants,” she said.