Qualified youth offenders in San Diego are given an opportunity to participate in a restorative justice project as an alternative to jail time.
“In January 2014, a selection committee composed of City Heights residents and other organizations selected the National Conflict Resolution Center and San Diego Youth Services to provide the Restorative Community Conferencing services in an effort to demonstrate an effective alternative to incarceration,” the Detroit News reported.
“Holding youth offenders accountable doesn’t always mean prosecuting them in Juvenile Court and putting them in Juvenile Hall,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
“We need more programs like this that provide second chances, opportunities for young offenders and alternative forms of justice.”
In the first six months of the program, there were nearly 50 referrals, most of which were incidents of battery, vandalism and theft. Of those referrals, 24 reached an agreement on an action plan for the youth to complete.
Plans may include community service for the offender, restitution, after-school programs or taking drug or alcohol classes.
Debbie Newkirk said she decided to participate in the program after a 17-year-old boy stole her purse on a trolley.
|“Holding youth offenders accountable doesn’t always mean prosecuting them”|
“I decided, he’s a young kid. He needs help,” said Newkirk.
Newkirk said a face-to-face meeting with the offender gave him a chance to take ownership over his actions, express remorse and apologize in person for his conduct.
“We ended up hugging,” Newkirk said.
“Our communities all benefit from restorative processes because the victims are getting greater satisfaction than they get in court. The youth are getting an opportunity to make amends, and the community is getting more involved in helping youth turn their lives around,” said Steve Dinkin, president of NCRC. “Community relationships are strengthened; trust and respect grow, and everyone is safer in their homes and neighborhoods.”