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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner joined the board of aldermen’s public safety meeting Tuesday to explain why the city’s diversion program is working. Her office has charged those arrested with looting in the past week.

In a time of national talk of defunding police departments, Gardner says diversion programs could be areas of interest where cities could direct additional funding.

“Diversion isn’t just a second chance. It’s about getting to the root cause of why they’re there in first place. We want a person to never go back (to prison),” Gardner said. “Diversion is not an easy get off and hold your hand. it’s actually harder than probation and parole.”

The circuit attorney says there are 522 people in the city’s diversion program at present. And while Gardner doesn’t have a specific report now on how it’s going, she says there’s a recidivism rate of only one percent for those who enter program.

“We have a unique approach to inspire young people to address hopelessness that we’re dealing with in our communities,” she said.

Gardner also says she has charged individuals who were arrested for looting last week during protests. Last week, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that had not happened.

“Eight cases. That’s what was brought to my office,” she said. “At that time, police told us they did not have admissible evidence but they would bring that back, and they did, and now I forget the number, but I think six out of eight are issued.”

Gardner says she cares about a safe St. Louis because she lives in the city and is working with Chief John Hayden.

“(Hayden) and I are working together to implement reform,” she said. “I know he’s instrumental in making sure those reforms take place in policing.”