Among the numerous actions Mission’s city council took last week was to authorize Police Chief Robert Dominguez to accept a $60,000 grant that will finance a program designed to expunge the criminal records of first offenders between ages 10 through 16 who are detained within the city’s limits.
Dominguez said persons who voluntarily participate in the six-week program, along with a mentoring program, can have their arrest records destroyed.
The First Offender Grant from the office of the governor, criminal justice division, will fund the program throughout the current fiscal year that began in October.
Under Texas Family Code Section 52.031, law enforcement agencies can choose to adopt the program with the approval of their governing body. Mission’s City Council had approved the program earlier this year to commence at the start of the current fiscal year.
The program applies to children who have committed first time offenses ranging from a Class B misdemeanor to a State Jail Felony. Offenses that are eligible for the program include but are not limited to possession of marijuana, thefts, criminal mischief and graffiti.
Program participants would be placed under a probationary 90-day period during which they would be required to accept community service, educational or vocational training and counseling, if deemed necessary, according to an overview of the program Dominguez has presented to the city council and the governing boards of the Mission and Sharyland school boards.
The course curriculum, “facilitated by highly qualified instructors,” may include educational field trips to places like the Mission National Birding Center to enhance vocational and skills development, according to program literature Dominguez provided.
Participants will also receive guidance counseling by police officers and First Offender program staff. Attendees will also be subject to other positive reinforcement activities such as team building, which could consist of meetings “with community leaders and other dedicated community professionals.”
Children accepted in the program will be required to attend two hour classes with their parent or guardian held at the police department. Among the classroom topics include violence prevention, drug and alcohol resistance, respect, leadership and skill development, teamwork, life skills and the importance of education, anger management, discipline, decision making and making positive choices.
During a city council meeting Dominguez said the program will benefit young people who may not appreciate the negative impact a juvenile conviction can have on their future educational and employment opportunities.
“This will provide the individual with a second chance at a successful and hopeful future,” Dominguez said, adding it will also allow children and their parents to avoid court costs. “It would be as if the offense never occurred.”