Muskingum County Prosecutor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 5, 2024
DART Diversion Program Participants Gain Skills for Better Decision-Making
One year after the launch of the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office pre-arrest diversion program, known as Diversion and Rehabilitation Treatment (DART), three participants have been successfully completed the program.
Entering the DART program during the lowest points of their lives, the three participants now leave with new hope for a promising future.
Prosecutor Ron Welch says DART is for those who truly want to improve their lives.
“The program uses selection criteria which indicate participants who have a good chance at long term success,” Welch said. “Not everyone is an acceptable candidate. Where we see other programs fail, it is due to an unwillingness to make the tough call on who can prosper. There’s no joy in looking at someone as a misuse of resources, but funds are limited so those types of decisions have to be made. Resources have to be put where success is most likely.”
Officers make recommendations to the Prosecutor’s Office before making arrests. Prosecutors and DART program director Kasi Stewart review candidates for selection.
Prosecutor Welch says Stewart is respected and beloved by DART participants.
“Kasi does a great job of evaluating potential participants before she and I meet to make the final decision,” Welch said. “Kasi does an incredible job with the enrollees. They really respect and respond to her. This allows me to trust her judgment completely.”
When one 24-year-old, hereafter referred to as “Gina,” entered the DART program, it was for a crime she committed during stressful times at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gina was working as an esthetician, but soon found herself out of work when the state mandated non-essential businesses close, due to emergency public health protocols
“It was really hard because most spas were closed,” Gina said.
To make extra cash, her boyfriend began selling marijuana. Around the same time, Gina lost a baby, due to an ectopic pregnancy.
Gina became depressed. She says she began smoking marijuana most of the day, even as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“We would wake up at like 5 in the morning, and smoke before work,” Gina said.
Most of the money her boyfriend made from selling marijuana was used to support her growing illegal drug habits. Gina and her boyfriend found themselves in trouble with the law, when they were pulled over while he was on his way to conduct a drug deal.
Gina says that encounter with law enforcement scared her straight.
“As soon as we got pulled over that night, we stopped smoking,” Gina said. “The marijuana stuff, that went completely out the door that night.”
Her boyfriend began reselling shoes instead of drugs, and Gina continued her work as an esthetician, knowing how a conviction would ruin her future. When her case came to the Prosecutor’s Office for charges, Gina was offered a spot in DART.
Gina says DART gave her a lifeline out of bad decisions.
“I was given basically a second chance—kind of like redeeming myself,” Gina said. “I’m not a bad person, and I think they knew that.”
Gina says meeting with Stewart weekly for general check-ins, drug screens and therapy updates helped her as a person.
“I feel like I was grateful to find a really good therapist,” Gina said. “I still feel the benefits from our sessions days and weeks later.”
Through DART counseling, she learned how to release suppressed feelings and work out the stresses in her life. Gina says the program taught her that there are better ways to cope with stress.
“I don’t think I was a great person. I feel like smoking made me more irritable and lazy and it didn’t get me into my full potential,” she said. “I thought I felt good, and then I stopped smoking.”
Gina successfully completed DART and her boyfriend successfully completed community control. Now, she is starting a family and succeeding in life.
“We are actually in the process of starting a family,” Gina said. “I think we are in a lot better place right now.”
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