MARTINEZ, CA: Impact Justice, RYSE Youth Center, and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announce a collaborative agreement to bring restorative justice diversion to Contra Costa County.
The county now joins Alameda, San Francisco, and Los Angeles counties in California (and Davidson County in Tennessee) to offer young people opportunities to take accountability for harm they have caused without getting pushed into the juvenile legal system.
“The current criminal legal system perpetuates harm by not prioritizing meaningful accountability,” said Ashlee George, associate director of Impact Justice’s Restorative Justice Project. “Survivors deserve to have their needs met and young people who’ve caused harm deserve opportunities to take responsibility. Community-led restorative justice diversion serves both needs.”
Restorative justice is the first youth diversion program to be offered by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. It will use a pre-charge model of restorative justice diversion developed by Impact Justice’s Restorative Justice Project. This means when a young person is arrested for a serious misdemeanor or a felony, such as robbery, burglary, or assault, the district attorney may refer the case to RYSE Youth Center to hold a facilitated face-to-face meeting with the consent of the person harmed, the responsible youth, respective family members, and other impacted community members. A consensus-based plan to make things right is created, and once the youth completes the plan, no charges are filed.
“Our young people need restorative justice diversion.” said Stephanie Medley, Education and Justice director at RYSE Youth Center. “We can create a healthier community by treating young people as valuable, contributing members even when they cause harm.”
Impact Justice will provide training and technical assistance to RYSE Youth Center and DA Diana Becton’s staff on creating this accountability process. The program focuses on youth of color to reduce the high levels of racial and ethnic disparities that exist in the criminal and juvenile legal systems. In 2014, Black youth in Contra Costa County were 14 times more likely to be confined compared to white youth.
“I have seen first-hand as a former superior court judge and now district attorney how the criminal justice system is not doing enough to support our youth,” said Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton. “Traditionally, the way our criminal justice system handled crimes committed by youth has not always worked. At the same time, restorative justice diversion leads to greater victim satisfaction, and creates a space for our youth to make amends with victims impacted by harm. With this proven restorative justice diversion program we can start to move in a new direction, to reduce youth involvement in the justice system, and lower recidivism rates.”
An evaluation of a similar program in Alameda County shows restorative justice diversion works. Youth who participated in a diversion process were 44% less likely to recidivate compared to youth who were processed through the juvenile legal system. Nine out of 10 survivors and responsible youth found the restorative justice process beneficial.
The average cost of a diversion case is estimated to be around $10,000. In 2016, it cost $143,000 to lock up one child for one year in a Contra Costa County juvenile facility.
Training for Contra Costa County’s restorative justice diversion program will commence in the summer of 2019. The first cases are expected to begin by the end of the year. The pilot program will last five years.
Information provided by Impact Justice