“In North Charleston, federal and local law enforcement officials identified a total of 31 narcotics dealers. Most were arrested in January 2011 and charged on either the state or federal level, but eight were kept out of handcuffs. Four of those eight eventually fell back into their old habits and were arrested, but the other four stayed away from drug dealing. None of those four have re-offended, one is up for promotion as a sanitation worker, and another recently earned his GED.

Initially, the plan faced skepticism from narcotics officers on the ground, who referred to it as “hug-a-thug.” Ultimately, they too were convinced it was a better strategy.

“We were inundated with telephone calls for the whole entire deployment, from the time we did the first call-in, from others interested in the program,” said Assistant Police Chief Reggie Burgess, who oversaw the program in North Charleston. “We had corner boys from other surrounding cities outside of our jurisdiction come in and say, ‘Hey, man, what can I do to get in this program?’ … They were telling us, basically, ‘I’m a drug dealer and I want to get off the streets.'”

The program helped not only the drug dealers but also their families. If a job came with health care benefits, Burgess said, the former drug dealer could take his kids to the pediatrician, rather than rely on hospital emergency rooms.

“If we can affect one life, that’s a ripple effect to that family,” North Charleston Sgt. Charity Prosser, who initially resisted helping to run the program, told NBC’s “Dateline” last year. “Their daddy’s not in jail, they have someone there constant, someone to teach them right from wrong, to teach them responsibility. That, in itself — if we could just save one, if we could just help one. The ripple effect? You’re talking countless people. Countless.””

via Federal Prosecutor Tries A Radical Tactic In The Drug War: Not Throwing People In Prison.