The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office is working with local nonprofit Building Peace Inc. to establish a Restorative Justice program.
In restorative justice programs, a trained facilitator convenes the offender with a victim or victims to talk about the act and how it affected the victim and the community. Through this process, the offender is held accountable for their actions and makes amends and the victims can begin healing.
“The community benefits, the victim benefits and the offender benefits,” Valdez said. “It’s a win-win-win.”
While the DA’s Office and Building Peace are working out details of how the program will be implemented, Valdez said she would like to start with juvenile offenders. Because restorative justice has a high success rate of reducing recidivism, Valdez believes the program can also reduce the high school-to-prison pipeline. Additionally, the goal is identify potential cases for restorative justice before charging.
“Even a charge can alter a person’s life forever,” Valdez said.
Lyle Seger, founding organizer of Building Peace, said that nearly 290 other communities across the United States have implemented restorative justice programs. Seger and others from his office, in conjunction with the DA’s Office, held an informational session in November and plan to train members of the community as restorative justice facilitators. More information will be provided on that training when it becomes available.
The DA’s Office explores alternatives to incarceration whenever appropriate, Valdez said.
“We take a holistic approach to everyone who comes through the criminal justice system,” she said. “Restorative justice is another tool in our toolbox to hold people accountable while reducing the criminal justice imprint on someone’s life.”