AFSC's California Healing Justice Program has been looking for ways to implement a restorative justice programs to replace the existing carceral/punishment system.
While legislation to fund three pilot programs in three locations languished in the legislature's fiscal committee in 2019, a proposal to fund one county to experiment with such a program was funded through the state budget. This was San Joaquin County, where AFSC had an office for many years. Although San Joaquin is not known as a progressive county, Fatimeh Khan of AFSC realized that the District Attorney there was quite progressive, and the legislator who had been pushing the bill encouraged her to work with the District Attorney.
Fatimeh and our new intern, Ivoni Maama, sat down with the District Attorney, her Deputy, and a county program person to go over what an effective diversion program could look like. Typically such a program diverts defendants from a court conviction and punishment process to a non-carceral alternative through bringing people accused of crimes together with surviving victims and community members to work out their conflicts and find solutions.
Fatimeh has deep experience in facilitating restorative justice “circles” and was able to convince the District Attorney and her staff about the necessary ingredients to a successful program. The county was also willing to include people who had been accused of more serious crimes, as well as adults. They asked Fatimeh to help train staff in these processes and help them identify appropriate community members to participate.
Another important ingredient in this process will be data collection and evaluation, something that has often been neglected in restorative justice work. If we are to promote these processes, we need evidence to show their effectiveness.
For more information about this work, please contact Fatimeh Khan at FKhan@afsc.org.