San Joaquin County has been putting victims face to face with their criminal offenders for the last three years. The program attempts to keep criminals out of prison and from committing new crimes.
“Over the last 3 ½ years, 76 individuals have graduated from my program,” San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said. “Three are unsuccessful and are fully engaged in the criminal justice system. My recidivism rate hovers around 95 percent success. They don’t come back.”
Now the state is spending $5 million to test a pilot program called Restorative Justice in the county, which advocates say will reduce mass incarceration.
In the Restorative Justice model, the offender meets with the victim, makes amends and receives counseling to help find a job, housing and education.
In turn, they avoid a criminal conviction — although not every offender will be eligible.
Verber Salazar says right now the state average sees 7 out of 10 criminals going back to prison. And it spends about from $65,000 to $95,000 a year to keep a criminal behind bars.
“I’ve taken a 70 percent recidivism rate and dropped it down to 5 percent,” she said. “That’s the kind of programming, that’s the kind of opportunities we have to restore our community and the wellness of our community and to give people the power to heal.”
Verber Salazar says that an independent third-party will evaluate the program for victim satisfaction, criminal recidivism and incarceration costs.