The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, aka Prosecutor’s office, and community-based organization Centinela Youth Services (CYS) announced that they are partnering to provide Restorative Justice Diversion. This partnership will allow youth to take accountability for their actions through a process that also cares for those who have been hurt and their needs.
Restorative justice is a unique approach that differs from the current criminal justice system. Restorative justice focuses on the victims, offenders, and their community. It aims to hold the young offender accountable for their actions by focusing on repairing harm, rebuilding trust, restoring relationships, and reducing recidivism in the long run. Restorative justice practices give all parties involved the opportunity to communicate their feelings about the crime while the responsible youth gets to reflect on the impact of their behavior on others.
Centinela Youth Services operates the Everychild Restorative Justice Center, providing effective restorative justice services to youth and those impacted by youth crime in partnership with the LA County juvenile justice system for over 30 years.
CYS provides restorative justice services that serve youth who’ve committed a crime and the person or entity harmed by that crime. Through intelligent solutions, CYS’s programs have proven to reduce reoffending, increase completion of restitution to victims, and are a more effective method of achieving public safety. 86% of CYS youth who enter into a restitution agreement with the person they harmed fulfill that agreement in full. In exchange, youth are not saddled with a criminal record, which would otherwise damage their future job prospects.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office is expanding its long-standing partnership with CYS. Through the Restorative Enhanced Diversion for Youth (REDY) program, prosecutors can refer youth facing qualified non-violent felony offenses to CYS before the case is filed in court. If the youth completes CYS restorative justice services and makes things right with the victim of the crime, there will be no conviction (or sustained petition) on their record. If the youth fails services, the case can still be filed in court.
Los Angeles County is at the forefront of meaningful justice reform. Acknowledging that the tools of our traditional juvenile justice system are not reducing recidivism, the Prosecutor’s office is looking at evidence-based alternatives. When the current justice system locks young people up in harsh conditions with minimal treatment or services, the results are further offending and lower public safety.
“Our work has been independently studied and proven to contribute to community safety,” said Jessica Ellis, Executive Director of CYS. “Youth with the same demographics and offenses going through CYS vs. going through the justice system show rearrest rates cut by 50-70% and restitution completion rates that are many factors higher,” she added.
Restorative Justice Diversion is about meaningful accountability and effective behavior change. When those goals are achieved, a young person will not have a criminal record to follow them for life. And that’s important for maintaining their pathway and access to being a productive member of society.
Restorative justice also leads to significant cost savings for criminal justice agencies and taxpayers. For example, CYS spends roughly $4,600 to serve youth for six months, while the juvenile justice system spends well over $200,000 to prosecute/incarcerate for six months.
CYS sees high satisfaction rates from participating victims and from referred youth who rate the process as more equitable.
CYS aims to create a safe community where balance is restored and repair the harm caused by youth and those they have harmed. They are committed to working restoratively with the responsible youth, their families, and victims.