A live internet joint press conference involving San Quentin State Prison and CDCR officials in Sacramento announced a five-year restorative justice pilot program aimed at the needs of victims, offenders and the community.
The first-ever live news conference to include incarcerated individuals was held recently to announce the program which will be based in San Joaquin County.
The incarcerated men, members of the Re:Store Justice organization, shared how they believe that restorative justice is a more wholesome approach to criminal justice.
Re:Store Justice is a nonprofit organization that deals with restor- ative justice and criminal justice reform.
The two locations were tied together via Skype.
“This was us announcing to the public the new resources and opportunities at hand to re- shape what the criminal justice system looks like,” said Eric “Maserati-E” Abercrombie, the main spokesman for the in- carcerated men.
“This is an opportunity to take a progressive approach to the criminal punishment sys- tem, which we know does not work. We aim to save taxpayer dollars, reduce the crime rate, reduce the incarceration rate, and increase healing.”
The $5 million pilot pro- gram aims to provide an al- ternative to the punitive ap- proach of prison.
The plan is to have of- fenders undergo an intense screening process to make sure that they are ready to change their lives by partici- pating in the restorative jus- tice program. Excluded are sex crimes and offenses that took a life.
“Currently there are lim- ited opportunities for victims to engage in the criminal jus- tice system other than at the end, when they make a vic- tim impact statement,” said
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “This is going to put power and tools and an opportunity to heal back in the hands of our victims.”
Each offender’s plan will be crafted and agreed upon by the crime survivor, the of- fender, community groups, law enforcement and defense attorneys.
“I want to promote heal- ing,” said crime survivor Tri- no Jiminez, who was stand- ing alongside the men in blue.
Rather than incarceration, offenders would be sent to substance abuse treatment, counseling, education and job training. Offenders may be required to pay restitution or write a statement of apology. “The way the current sys- tem is designed, the survivors are neglected. The conviction is the most important thing to achieve justice. It does noth- ing to help the victims heal,” said Abercrombie, “With this program, victims are not ne- glected; they get resources and support to heal.”Offenders in the program receive a suspended sentence. If they violate the plan, they could be sent to prison. If they complete the program, they could avoid having a criminal record.
Re:Store Justice cofounder and former San Quentin State Prison resident Adnan Khan attended the press conference in Sacramento.
“This will provide an op- portunity for people to truly understand why they did what they did, so then they can be accountable and so then they can continue making amends,” Khan said.
Khan and State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) ad- vocated for the funds to intro- duce the pilot program after a meeting at San Quentin State Prison.
“The goal of restorative jus- tice is to give victims a chance to receive true justice in a much more personal way than our current system allows,”
said Senator Glazer. “At the same time, the program gives offenders a chance to make amends directly to the victim.”
Abercrombie said he wants to create a criminal justice sys- tem that heals rather than fur- ther divides communities. He said he hopes the San Joaquin County pilot program will pave the way for a statewide restorative justice reform that will replace the current puni- tive system.
“Coming from the places we come from, we place limits on ourselves,” said Abercrombie, “I want to encourage everyone to break out of the boxes that we put ourselves in. As corny as that may sound, it’s real.”