AU to study impact of Kane County diversion program

Brandoi Kooi, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice

Brandon Kooi, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice

Aurora University will team up with Kane County prosecutors to study whether the county’s Second Chance diversion program, aimed at straightening out certain criminal offenders, is meeting its goal. Brandon Kooi, associate professor of criminal justice, will oversee the study that will track more than 300 people who successfully completed the program between 2005 and 2010.

“The study will offer an assessment of the Second Chance initiative for the first time, even though the program has been active for well over a decade,” said Kooi.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office has been a leader in developing and implementing diversion programs for non-violent, first-time offenders. Its Second Chance program allows offenders, who are prepared to accept responsibility for their actions, the opportunity to learn from their actions and gives them a second chance to keep their records clear of criminal conviction.

The Aurora University study, which should be completed by the end of the spring 2014 semester, will access a statewide database to see whether the people in the study were convicted of any crime within three years of completing the program.

“The assessment will either show that the second chance candidates are doing well with regard to recidivism rates or not doing well,” said Kooi. “The findings should give us a good indication of the proportion of second chance graduates who are being reconvicted so we have a better understanding of the long-term effects.”

Kooi will be assisting the research and assessment work of Michelle Halbesma, the Second Chance Program Director, who also is completing her master’s degree in criminal justice at Aurora University. Halbesma will be assisting with the study as part of her thesis.

“I am hoping this study will give us insight into how well the diversion programs are doing in the rehabilitative process,” said Halbesma. “Are we doing a good job of whom we are putting in these programs and are the interventions and services meeting the needs of the offender?”

“When university faculty can successfully partner with area practitioners, we create a community connection and demonstrate the applicability for student degrees,” said Kooi. “By encouraging our students to continually seek better answers for problems our communities are facing, we create a transformational education process that is seen as invaluable.”

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.