Contra Costa DA adopts program to keep youth offenders out of juvenile system

Youth offenders will now have opportunity to make amends and stay out of jail

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton has announced that the county has become the fourth in California to adopt restorative justice diversion practices for youth, a program aimed at making young people accountable for their actions without pushing them into the juvenile legal system.

Now when a young person is arrested in Contra Costa County for a serious misdemeanor or felony such as robbery, burglary or assault, the DA may now refer the case to the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond, where the offender will have the opportunity to make amends for their wrongdoing -- with the consent of the victim required.

In addition to more effectively helping youths make amends for their wrongdoings, diversions will also prove to be a huge cost-saving measure, according to county officials. The average cost of a diversion case is estimated to be around $10,000, while in 2016 it cost $143,000 to lock up one child for one year in Contra Costa County.

“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,” Becton said in a statement. “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.”

As a part of the new program, juvenile offenders will be referred to the RYSE Youth Center where staff will facilitate face-to-face meetings with the individual they harmed, respective family members and other impacted members of the community. A consensus-based plan to make amends will be created by the group, which once completed by the youth, will result in no charges being filed.

According to a report on restorative justice diversion in Alameda County, youth who participated in a diversion process were 44% less likely to recidivate, and nine out of 10 survivors and responsible youth found the restorative justice process beneficial.

Officials from Becton’s office said that the program is particularly focused on young people of color who often experience unfair treatment in the criminal and juvenile legal systems -- adding that in 2014 black youth in Contra Costa County were 14 times more likely to be confined compared to white youth.

“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.”

In order to launch the new program, the county partnered with Impact Justice -- a justice reform advocacy group -- who will provide training and technical assistance to RYSE Youth Center.

“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.”

Contra Costa County now joins Alameda, San Francisco, and Los Angeles counties in California -- as well as Davidson County in Tennessee -- to adopt restorative justice diversion practices for youth.

“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,” Becton said.

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6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Jun 24, 2019 at 6:33 am

I think that is a wonderful idea!
Allowing people to make amends for their wrongs. Obviously that is the whole idea behind the corrections system (or at least use to be)
to show people where they went wrong and to get them to be a part of society again. A much better approach for all rather than tarnishing them for life, leaving them little no hope. I hope this program is a great success and it carries over to the adults as well.

5 people like this
Posted by daveday
a resident of Danville
on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:02 am

What a wonderful opportunity for the youthful offender to again victimize the poor gullible victim one more time, not to mention a new victim, before facing real accountability.

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