SF DA’s Office Receives Grant to Expand Restorative Justice Diversion Program

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SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin in San Francisco in February

One of the priorities of DA Chesa Boudin was to utilize more restorative justice programs as his office moves away from standard models of prosecution and incarceration.  On Thursday, they were awarded a grant to help them do just that.

The Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) voted to award Community Works (CW) just under $2 million from the Youth Reinvestment Grant (YRG) Program. A portion of these funds will allow for the expansion of the “Make It Right Program,” a pre-charge Restorative Justice Diversion program developed from a partnership between CW and the San Francisco DA’s Office. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office will now be able to increase referrals of young adults to restorative justice diversion.

Additionally, the funds will provide much-needed clinical resources to program participants. Restorative Justice Diversion is an effective intervention to reduce incarceration, recidivism, and racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system. CW will use the funding to establish the nation’s first regional network of Restorative Justice Diversion implementers.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has partnered with Community Works since 2013 to provide Restorative Justice Diversion for youth under the age of 18 who are arrested on misdemeanors or felonies in San Francisco County.  Through this partnership, Community Works MIR has served hundreds of youth who would have otherwise been subjected to the traditional juvenile justice system. Through this partnership with Community Works, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office can direct prosecutorial resources toward addressing violent crime.

“When survivors of crime are involved in decisions about how we hold people who have caused harm accountable, remarkable things happen – like restoration and repair – that are more aligned with our values than the mass imprisonment we are experiencing now,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “As we hear cries around the nation to ‘defund the police’ we have to ask ourselves whether every role we play in prosecution is appropriate and necessary. If there is a better actor in the community or elsewhere, we need to step back and allow them the space to work.”

Referred individuals participate in a restorative conference, which involves a dialogue among those affected by the harm. Through this dialogue, the responsible youth take accountability for the harm they caused and develop a concrete Restorative Plan in collaboration with all affected parties, including the victim.

“This funding will directly address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system by offering Restorative Justice Diversion to youth and young adults who disproportionately fill our jails and prisons, providing them with critical support and opportunities to repair harm.  The Make It Right program offers communities impacted by violence & harm a process to tap into their own resources to heal from and prevent cycles of violent crime. We look forward to continuing this partnership with the SF District Attorney’s office in our effort to transform justice,” said Ruth Morgan, Founder of Community Works West.

“Centering the needs of survivors is an essential component of the restorative justice process, something that is often left out of traditional court proceedings,” added Danielle Soto, Senior Researcher and Associate Director of the Research & Action Center at Impact Justice. “The BSCC grant offers a unique opportunity to evaluate Community Works’ restorative justice diversion program from a crime survivor perspective, as outcomes are often focused solely on those responsible for harm. The evaluation will also focus on outcomes for responsible youth, tracking positive social/emotional growth and recidivism for youth.”

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