Nearly dozen attend 2nd Fresh Start event

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — Eleven people, known to be involved in local gun-related incidents and shootings, met face-to-face with law enforcement, community members and social service workers as part of the second CU Fresh Start, Thursday.

The group is designed to help those caught up in a life of bad decisions get second chances. The group emphasizes the message gun violence must stop now.

“These individuals have a choice to make,” reports Tracy Parsons, Facilitator of the Champaign Community Coalition. “If they choose to put the guns down and pursue a different course of action, we’re offering to help them get the resources they need to become productive, law-abiding members of our community.  But if they choose to continue their violent ways, we’re letting them know they’ll be prosecuted to the greatest extent possible. The choice is theirs and we all hope they make the right one.”

The first event took place in October. Organizers say six of nine participants are still working with the program and taking advantage of supportive services.

Leaders say they are “cautiously optimistic” about the success of the six. They continue to meet conditions of parole or probation, none have been re-arrested for any crime, some are pursuing educational paths while others are employed or actively seeking work.

Those involved in the program are 18-or-older, on parole or probation, have a prior felony arrest, prior gun arrest or violent crime conviction and recent involvement in violent crime.

“The amount of recent gun violence is unprecedented and unacceptable to our community,” added Parsons. “But we know we can’t arrest our way out of this situation and that law enforcement can’t do it alone. CU Fresh Start is a unique way in which our community has come together to tackle this problem head on. If these individuals are truly ready to make a fresh start, we’re ready to help be their guide.”

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