October 18, 2013: 27 year old Maurice Teasley is an excellent example of how second chances can change a life. Just eighteen months ago, Maurice, an unemployed father of two, was facing prison after a drug arrest in the East Germantown section of Philadelphia. Today, Maurice is employed full time, he’s proudly helping raise his two young sons, and he’s the newest recipient of the JEVS Human Services “Inspiration Award.” Maurice, who is also a member of the District Attorney’s “The Choice is Yours (TCY)” program, received the award during JEVS 2013 Strictly Business Awards this week. The awards banquet was attended by over 600 local and national business leaders.
Maurice Teasley was chosen for the TCY program in 2012, when he was facing a mandatory one year minimum prison sentence for selling crack cocaine. However, he avoided trial by agreeing to participate in TCY, a diversionary alternative-to-incarceration program. While a part of TCY, he was hired by Tasty Baking Company where he now works full time as a machine operator. Maurice has put his former lifestyle completely behind him, and he and his girlfriend are now raising their sons with a newfound sense of purpose and pride. He even volunteers as a PopWarner football coach in his community. Maurice will be graduating from TCY next month.
“The Choice is Yours” (TCY) is an innovative alternative-to-incarceration reentry program that diverts non-violent felony drug offenders away from prison and instead provides them with social services support, educational enhancements and job skills training. The TCY Program seeks to reduce recidivism rates and address the problem of prison overcrowding without compromising public safety.
It is the goal of TCY that upon completion, all participants will be employed or attending a full-time trade/vocational school, posses their high school degree or GED, complete 220 hours of restorative justice to their community, and have paid off their court costs and associated lab fees. TCY functions under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. It operates as a partnership between the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia and JEVS Human Services.
The program targets first-time felony drug offenders charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute (PWID, 2 to 10 grams of powder or crack cocaine). It is open to U.S. citizens age 18 or older with no violent offenses associated with past or present charges. These individuals would be facing a mandatory one year sentence in state prison. The District Attorney’s Office has the sole discretion in approving or rejecting a defendant’s participation in the TCY Program. Participants who successfully complete the program are eligible to have their records expunged.
The program was initially offered to over ninety eligible defendants. Sixty-seven (67) successfully completed orientation and entered the TCY Program. Currently twenty-seven (27) people have completed the program and are awaiting expungement. Twenty-five (25) individuals either failed orientation or rejected the terms of the program. Of those twenty-five (25), sixteen (16) have already been convicted of felony drug charges and another eight have open cases still pending.