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Jefferson County diversion program creates new 'pathway' for eligible court cases

JeffCo diversion program creates new pathway for eligible cases
JeffCo diversion program creates new pathway for eligible cases 03:12

As courtrooms and court officials navigate increased caseloads, Jefferson County is reinventing its adult Diversion program.

Pathways is a program aimed at helping to keep low-level, low-risk offenders out of the justice system.

Rebecca Funaro says it's hard to believe, but her run-in with the law was one of her greatest blessings.

"It changed my life," she said, choking back tears.

Rebecca Funaro   CBS

Her trouble started after losing her job.

"I had a great job as an assistant manager at a small financial institution, I was killing it in life, you know? And then the pandemic hit and, because we were such a small company, we closed our doors and everybody lost their jobs," she said.

Following that, her health took at turn for the worst and last winter, she lost her home.

"I was living outdoors, no source of heat in a tent that had ripped holes someone gave it to me to use. I just needed something to block the wind or snow," she said.

One night, while walking to the emergency room she saw a vacant home and decided it was her best chance to survive.

"I made the decision to go back and check it out. It was kind of a means to an end for me because I didn't know where else to go, what else to do," she said.

That stay led to her encounter with law enforcement and a second chance.

"I was given a criminal trespass for staying in a home that obviously didn't belong to me. That was the blessing in disguise," she said.

Instead of jail and fines, her case was eligible for Jefferson County's adult diversion program, "Pathways."

Ken Hayes is the director.

"We are a diversion program," he said. "Quite simply, our job is to divert folks from the justice system."

It starts with a risk evaluation of every case referred to them, starting with why someone ended up in court.

"We want to look at the areas of one's life that is making them likely to be in the justice system in the future and then work on those areas," he said.

Assigned to a client specialist, they can help ensure those struggles are addressed first.

District Attorney Alexis King says having the option to divert people away from the courts ahead of a plea improves on an old system.

"It required a lot of court time and often, for people who are low-risk, low-level folks who did not necessarily belong in that whole process," she said.


Funaro needed stable housing and Pathways found a way to get her off the street.

Today, she's staying in a hotel while waiting for the go ahead to move into her own apartment.

"This whole last year has been one of the roughest and the hardest that I have ever had to survive. And that's all I was doing; was surviving, sometimes barely. Today like, everything is just all the boxes are checked, you know," she said through tears.

Only low-level felony and misdemeanor cases are eligible for Pathways and clients have to be approved following a risk evaluation.

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