Legislators, prosecutors and criminal justice reform advocates discussed a ground-breaking Restorative Justice program created as part of the new California state budget at a press conference on Monday.

Speakers included: Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa); Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton); Tori Verber, San Joaquin County District Attorney; Adnan Khan, Co-Executive Director, Re:store Justice; and an inmate and crime victim via live video feed from San Quentin State Prison.

Jose Jimenez, a survivor of crime, shared via Skype how restorative justice programs have helped her find healing. She was joined by incarcerated individual Eric Abercrombie from San Quentin, who talked about how participating in restorative justice programs prepares inmates for life outside of prison.

"Restorative Justice has shown in limited circumstances to hold promise as a way to reduce crime and give victims greater satisfaction than the traditional criminal justice system," said Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa, who authored the bill, SB 678, which formed the basis for the restorative justice budget provision. "This program will allow for an expanded test of the concept, with a rigorous review of the results. If it works as we expect, the program could be expanded statewide and would reduce prison costs while improving lives for offenders and the broader community."

Restorative Justice is an ancient concept that is now being tried again as a way for victims to play a greater role in the criminal justice process if they wish. Direct interaction with offenders has been found to give some victims more satisfaction than they receive through an impersonal and detached criminal court proceeding.

“We talk a lot about how important it is to make our justice system truly reflect rehabilitation and restoration rather than punitive consequences alone, and this proposal does just that,” said Assembly member Susan Eggman, who co-authored SB 678. “Evidence suggests that this is worth trying on a broader scale, and I’m proud that San Joaquin County has stepped up to promote repairing harm and healing in the community.”

As funded in the 2019-20 budget, the pilot project will include an independent evaluation to assess the effect on victim satisfaction, criminal recidivism, and incarceration costs. These programs would put victims first and help transform those who have committed crimes to reduce our reliance on mass incarceration.