News Local/State

‘CU Fresh Start’ Aims To Intervene Before People Enter Criminal Justice System For Gun-Related Crimes

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Peoria Public Radio

The program CU Fresh Start aims to reduce gun violence in Champaign-Urbana by helping people with a history of gun-related crimes turn their lives around. 

It's now making some changes in at attempt to intervene sooner in the lives of people at risk of getting involved in gun-related activities.

In the past, a person had to already be on probation or parole for gun-related crimes to be eligible for CU Fresh Start and receive the individualized support to program provides to find housing, jobs, mental health or addiction treatment, or anything else a person needs to get their life back on track.

Now, anyone 18 and older is eligible to apply, or refer someone else, as long as they don’t have pending criminal charges.

Champaign Community Relations Specialist Mary Catherine Roberson said the goal is “to be able to get them support services they need before they have to enter the criminal justice system.”

Forms will eventually be available online for agencies or individuals interested in referring someone to the program.

Until then, Roberson said people can contact the city of Champaign or Rosecrance on Walnut in Champaign to receive a paper form to apply.

In addition to the new methods of referral, law enforcement will still carry out “call-in” events a couple times a year, during which people on probation and parole are offered a chance to receive help through CU Fresh Start.

Roberson said many in the community have misconceptions about the program because of the way law enforcement is involved in the program.

“You’re not in trouble because you joined CU Fresh Start or because someone referred you to CU Fresh Start,” Roberson said. “Law enforcement doesn’t participate with us as a way to find people to arrest. They’re actually working with us as a way to get us names of people to try to offer an intervention.”

CU Fresh Start is a deterrence program “with the ultimate goal of saving lives in our community," she said.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman