Philadelphia Criminal Law News

What Is the STAR Program?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Philadelphia on Tuesday to witness a unique court session. Holder observed as more than a dozen men, as part of a special program, updated a federal judge on their lives, The Washington Post reports.

These men, ex-offenders, have to report to federal court a couple times a month. There a judge assesses their progress in a series of rehabilitative efforts that include drug testing and job training.

What is this program, exactly? Here's a general overview:

The STAR Program

The Supervision to Aid Re-entry, or STAR, program was initiated by federal court officials seven years ago. Its primary goal was to reduce the city's violence and crime rates by tackling the logistical issues -- including social and family -- that ex-offenders face when they are released and return to society.

These selected former inmates meet in a group with an assigned judge every two weeks or twice a month to report their progress. In between that time, the members of the program might complete mandated vocational training or take parenting classes. The program is 52 weeks long, and those who successfully complete it are able to reduce their court-supervised release by a year. Every class is fairly small -- only around 15-20 ex-inmates.

Different from Probation

How is the STAR program different from probation?

Probation is essentially a period of supervised release that serves as an alternative to a term in jail or prison. Probation entails releasing the defendant back into society with special conditions attached (frequent drug testing, meeting with a probation officer every week, etc). If at any point the defendant on probation violates his or her conditions, he or she runs the risk of serving the rest of their sentence in jail or prison.

The STAR Program, on the other hand, applies mostly to inmates who have already been released from jail. The focus of the STAR Program is mainly to prepare ex-offenders for the transition back into society. The program aims to instill good behavior and employ preventative measures so that the participants do not commit future violent crimes.

Holder is optimistic that the STAR Program will bring progress, The Washington Post reports. "I've got to say, this is really heartwarming to see what you all are doing with your lives. What we've seen here today gives me a great deal of hope."

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