A new diversion program in California pairs victims and offenders prior to conviction. Those who complete the initiative can spare themselves a criminal record, AP News reports. People of all ages are eligible to take part.
The pilot program allows victims to deal directly with their offenders to help their healing process, according to the article. Moreover, sparing offenders from having a criminal record can help them avoid committing new crimes. The theory is that having a rap sheet leads to stigma; the accompanying shame can make people more inclined to offend again.
California State Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, authored the measure that led to the pilot program’s creation. The state budget has allocated $5 million to fund the program for five years in San Joaquin County.
The results of the project will be monitored by an independent evaluation to see if it satisfies victims and how many graduates commit new crimes.
“The goal of restorative justice is to give victims a chance to receive true justice in a much more personal way than our current system allows,” said Sen. Steve Glazer. “At the same time, the program gives offenders a chance to make amends directly to the victim.”
Victims Confront Their Offenders
Victims of serious crimes have had very few opportunities to interact with their perpetrators, says San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. She adds, “This is going to put power and tools and an opportunity to heal back in the hands of our victims.”
Californians charged with sexual assault or murder are not eligible to participate. The program is meant for people who do not have extensive criminal records but have committed a crime that carries the potential for violence. Those taking part may have to undergo addiction treatment, counseling, education, and life skills training.
Participants who fail to meet the diversion program requirements are at risk of having to serve the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.
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