Restorative justice is an approach to addressing the root causes of criminal behavior to prevent recidivism, repair harm to victims, and to enhance public safety. The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office is currently developing a pilot program that would allow first-time offenders and other eligible participants to take responsibility for criminal behavior by directly repairing the harm caused to victims and the community, instead of going to court. This program would be for nonviolent offenses that do not involve domestic violence, driving under the influence, or drugs. For example a neighbor dispute, theft, or vandalism could all be referred to a restorative justice program.
Qualifying individuals take part in sessions led by a trained facilitator and community volunteers where they discuss the crime, why it was committed, its effects on the victim, and how to avoid future law enforcement contact. Ultimately, the goal is for participants to take responsibility for their actions. Working together, the group determines an appropriate obligation for the participant that considers such factors as the crime committed and the harm caused. The obligation could include community service, restitution, an apology letter, or another similar resolution appropriate for the situation. If the participant successfully completes the process, no criminal case will be filed. If they are unsuccessful, the case would be referred back for filing consideration.
The Criminal Division takes pride in its role as a steward of public safety in the Santa Monica Community. However, we recognize that the conventional tools of the criminal justice are limited. Accordingly, our office has used and will continue to use restorative justice principles, when appropriate, as a tool for reaching fair and just resolutions for criminal cases.
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