Stockton, CA - San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that her office has been awarded a $5 million grant to pilot a restorative justice program as an additional tool to reducing crime and the affected thereby. This restorative justice model ensures the victim is actively involved in the resolution of the case, including holding the defendant accountable, having restitution paid, and understanding and accepting responsibility for the harm caused. The defendant is required to attend and complete education, employment training, and address any underlying issues such as mental health or substance abuse. Programming is rigorous and monitored by a highly trained team including probation, mental health, and the criminal justice system.
"Just because we've done something one way for a long time doesn't mean it's the best approach for victims of crime and our community's safety," said District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. "We have to be willing to learn from our past in order to grow and build a better future. These modern approaches save precious taxpayer resources, and they've been shown to enhance safety and the experience victims have when they come into contact with our system of justice."
The District Attorney's Office will use this award to add restorative justice components to the Project Navigate Constructive Change (PNCC) initiative. PNCC provides intensive, evidence based programming, mentoring, and monitoring to reduce re-offending. Participants of PNCC are carefully selected through case screening and assessment and their willingness and motivation to complete the program. Of those who are accepted into the program, 73% have graduated. The partnerships between the San Joaquin County Probation Department, Behavioral Health Services, the Public Defender's Office, and the San Joaquin District Attorney's Office have made PNCC possible.
A multi-year evaluation of the impact of participation in PNCC on recidivism and other outcomes is being conducted by Bright Research Group. Analysis of the first three years of the program shows that PNCC graduates have significantly lower rates of both subsequent contact and subsequent conviction compared to those with similar criminal history and current offenses within San Joaquin County. "PNCC participation and graduation has a net positive impact and lays the foundation for future studies, which will test whether these restorative justice programs are effective," said Brightstar Ohlson, Founder of Bright Research Group.
Steve Jackson, Chief Probation Officer from San Joaquin County Probation Department stated, "We are excited to continue and expand the services being provided by PNCC. This program embodies the mission and goals of the Probation Department in supporting victims, reducing recidivism through client accountability, and inspiring change. I believe our team's approach to supervising PNCC clients will have a positive impact in identifying a path to productive life choices."
PNCC has shown the effectiveness of a prosecutor-led diversion program due to data presented by the Bright Research Group and an expansion of the program will be highly beneficial to San Joaquin County. The proposed program model would be a prosecutor-led restorative justice program which blends the accountability of the criminal justice system with community-based interventions. Cases would be charged and a plea entered at court. From there, participants would work with program partners (various community based agencies, Behavior Health Services, etc.) to complete the requirements for the program. San Joaquin County Probation Department, San Joaquin District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office will jointly monitor and evaluate participants' success. In the event the participant is unsuccessful at meeting goals or requirements of the program, they would be returned for prosecution as usual.
The San Joaquin District Attorney's Office and affiliates presented PNCC's data to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors earlier this morning. The goal is to further pilot a restorative justice program that will enhance and expand PNCC services and increase public safety.