Legislative action for restorative justice in California

AB 114 was vetoed last time around by the govenator. There will be hearings on June 16 to reconsider it, after a few language changes have been added.

Here’s a bit of key language from the bill:

This bill would authorize a county to adopt a restorative justice
program to address the needs of minors, victims, and the community.
The bill would require the restorative justice program to be
implemented through a restorative justice protocol developed by the
juvenile court in conjunction with the prosecutor, public defender,
and other interested groups. The bill would prohibit the use of
General Fund moneys to fund the program.

A few thoughts. First, counties don’t need this bill to adopt a system of restorative justice. They can right now if they want to. But, if this bill passes counties will be restricted as to how they implement the system. The bill stipulates that the program be established by the juvenile court, and that the prosecutor (e.g. the DA’s office) and the public defender be involved.

Three problems: 1. The juvenile courts are strapped and not much in the mode of establishing anything new. 2. While some DA offices are quite enthusiastic about restorative justice, others shun it. 3.  As I’ve posted here before, I suspect that restorative justice may work best when it is in the “reform movement” category, and that if it is institutionalized it may, over time, lose some of what makes it powerful. I’ve encountered a bit of evidence that this has begun to happen in New Zealand, for example, although I’m certainly no expert on what is happening there.

I’m not saying AB114 is a bad thing or that we should oppose it. I’m just saying that it’s one of those “solutions” that may could inadvertently end up causing a whole new set of problems.

Read it yourself. What do you think?

For more info about the June 16th hearings:

scott.allen@asm.ca.gov

(916) 319-2062

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