Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon is expanding a program that allows teens to potentially avoid trial for a number of violent crimes, including robbery, burglary, arson, sexual battery, and assault without firearm use. .
Details of the Restorative Enhanced Divergence for Youth Program are provided by Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon L. Wu is mentioned in an internal memo from prosecutors for the Juvenile Division and obtained by Southern California Newsgroup.
The so-called REDE program is the result of a pilot project unveiled last month by Gascon in conjunction with Sentinella Youth Services and the Everychild Restorative Justice Center.
“This program will help repair the enormous damage that has been inflicted on our community by giving crime victims the opportunity to actively participate in the restorative justice process,” Gascon said in a statement.
Before Gascon took office in December 2020, juveniles were placed in diversion programs based on the nature of their crimes, criminal history and overall attitude, Eric Siddle, vice president of the Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said on Monday.
“Fitness is no longer the norm under Gascon’s approach. Rather a blanket approach regardless of the crime,” said Siddal. “With Gascon’s policy, you can sexually exploit anyone and you can never go to courtroom.” Can’t see inside. You can rob someone and never be held accountable.”
According to the memo, juveniles accused of murder, rape and forced sexual assault will be excluded from the diversion programme. The diversion program will have around five to seven slots for youth per month. Victims have to agree before youth can participate.
Jessica Ellis, executive director of Sentinella Youth Services, said the program does not guarantee that charges against teens will be automatically dropped.
“Charges are eliminated only if the young person participates in restorative justice diversion and intervention services to the extent that meaningful accountability, rehabilitation and further public safety threats are substantially reduced,” Ellis said. “If any threat or lack of accountability persists, charges can still be filed and the court process can continue as usual.”
He said there are broad recommendations for some offences, but each case is assessed individually to determine whether the diversion is justified.
“What has changed is that the potentially appropriate fee for diversion has been expanded to find the one that is most effective for public safety based on available data and research,” Ellis said.
According to Ellis, studies have shown that people who participate in Sentinella Youth Services diversion programs are 50% to 70% less likely to be re-arrested than those assigned to the justice system.
Restorative justice also offers taxpayers a significant savings, Ellis said.
It cost Sentinella Youth Services about $200,000 to serve youths for six months, compared to $200,000 to prosecute and imprison them for the same period, she noted.
“The Los Angeles County Probation Department currently has a budget of more than $409 million for youth detention services,” Ellis said, describing the legal system for juveniles as bloated and ineffective. “There are only about 400 children in the lockup, what are we getting for this expenditure of over $1 million per youth?
Gascon’s decision to expand the diversion program is in line with promises from their Social Justice campaign to stop prosecuting juveniles as adults, as well as to eliminate cash bail, increase sentences and the death penalty as a punishment option. is included.
Some prosecutors have said crime victims and their families feel abandoned by Gascon’s controversial directives amid a recent increase in violent crime in the Los Angeles area.
“The entire state, including Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti, felt there was a crisis in terms of increasing crime,” Siddle said. “It seems that the only person who doesn’t seem to realize that there is a crisis is District Attorney Gascon.”