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Restorative justice keeps youth offenders out of juvenile hall

Restorative Justice News ConfSan Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis working with the Mid-City Community Action Network, the National Conflict Resolution Center, County Probation, and the Public Defender’s Office announced Thursday the results of the first year of a City Heights pilot project offering youth an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system.

The project takes qualified youth offenders and puts them in meetings with the people who they have committed crimes against and community members. Together, the parties work out customized plans of action designed to repair the harm done to victims, families, and the community, as well as the offenders.

Plans may include community service for the offender, restitution, getting involved in after-school activities, or taking drug or alcohol classes.

At the end of the process, the offender learns how what he or she did personally harmed the victim, the victim understands what was happening in the youth offender’s life at the time of the incident, and community members and facilitators provide discussion, oversight, resources, and consequences for the minor.

“Holding youth offenders accountable doesn’t always mean prosecuting them in juvenile court and putting them in juvenile hall,” Dumanis said. “We need more programs like this that provide second chances, opportunities for young offenders, and alternative forms of justice.”

Through July, the program has received 46 referrals, most of which are incidents of battery, vandalism, and theft. Of these referrals, 11 were screened out. Twenty-four have reached an agreement on an action plan for the youth to complete and 11 are in the preparation stages.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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