Community-driven restorative justice, an alternative to criminal court.
Promoting innovative solutions to low level crime by resolving cases with the help of community volunteers. A division of the District Attorney
WHAT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD COURTS PROGRAM?
The Neighborhood Courts program is a community driven, pre-filing diversion program designed to divert low level misdemeanor offenses from entering the criminal justice system.
First time offenders are given an opportunity to take responsibility and repair the harm they caused through a community-based process using restorative justice principles instead of a courtroom.
The Neighborhood Courts program addresses criminal violations that impact the quality of life in the community and provides an alternative to entering into criminal court.
The purpose of the program is to: reduce recidivism by understanding why people offend, address the harm the offense had on the victim (if applicable) and the community and, using restorative principles rather than punitive principles, effectively and efficiently restore the local community, victim and offender back into community.
HOW DOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD COURTS PROGRAM WORK?
Eligible cases are diverted by the District Attorney’s Office into the Neighborhood Courts program. While participation is voluntary and confidential, participants (the offenders) must be willing to take responsibility for their actions that caused harm. Victims are invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Trained community volunteers will become panelists and meet with the participant and victim (if applicable) in a relaxed, confidential space, in what is called a conference. During the Conference, volunteer panelists and the participant discuss:
- Harms caused to victim (if applicable) and community
- Root of why the crime happened
- Panelists and participant work together on a list of agreements that lead to restorative accountability goals that are specific, reasonable, attainable, and restorative to the participant, victim, and community.
- Once the participant successfully completes the agreement, the case will be dismissed. The participant is given a second chance because the conviction will not be on their record. If needed, the participants may be referred to additional services offered in the community. If a case is not resolved in Neighborhood Courts, it will be re-routed back to the District Attorney’s Office.