Are They Really Behind Bars--Better Look Again

Are They Really Behind Bars--Better Look Again

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Mobile, AL -

A state program allows offenders to walk the streets while appearing to be in jail on paper. It's baffling some officers because of its similarities to the parole program.

It's called the Front End Diversion program. Offenders are free on the streets, while the system says they're still behind bars. Mobile Police officers didn't have a clue about it until just a few years ago.

"We were finding out cause we were arresting people that were showing to be in state prison in the system. Initially we thought we had some escapees but found out differently," says Capt. Clay Godwin with the Mobile Police Department.

The program has the offenders reporting at certain intervals to a parole officer, which to many, sounds just like parole. And it's what happened to Aprentince Etheridge.

"With his short age, he's only 19 years old, but we've been dealing with him for several years. Relentlessly came up in investigations of apartment complex burglaries up and down Michael Blvd and Downtowner," says Godwin.

Sheriff Sam Cochran says in this program, the offender does not go through the normal process of being tried and convicted and either serve a sentence or are put on probation or parole.

"The front end diverts them and puts them on some type of informal probation ahead of time, saving the system, somewhat its efforts to try and convict him," says Sheriff Cochran.

The state system views it as jail time, even though offenders are free to go after the judge gives the order. But if you violate the program, you serve whatever sentence what decided on at the time you were arrested.

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