Suffolk district attorney to pilot restorative justice program

BOSTON — Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden will roll out a restorative justice pilot program that brings victims, offenders and the community together to resolve cases outside of the traditional court sentencing process.

The program will start in Chelsea District Court and the Charlestown and Roxbury divisions of Boston Municipal Court.

Participation in the program is voluntary. It is designed to identify and address wrongs, as well as the needs and obligations resulting from an offense, to help everyone involved understand the impact.

The aim is for the offender to accept responsibility and make amends to the people or group harmed.

“We’re always seeking paths to justice that take an innovative approach beyond the traditional adjudication and sentencing route,” Hayden said in a statement. “Restorative justice is a perfect example of the types of approaches modern prosecution offices should embrace. The results for participating victims, community members, and offenders can be immensely powerful.”

Cases that qualify for restorative justice fall within the final jurisdiction of the district or municipal court and do not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. They must also not involve allegations of sexual assault, violence against children, elders intimate partners, people with disabilities or serious bodily injury or death.

Applicants may include victims, defendants and their attorneys, community members impacted by crimes in Suffolk County and law enforcement.

The applicants could include victims, defendants and/or their attorneys, Suffolk County community members impact by crimes, and law enforcement agencies.

Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) will facilitate the process, provide status updates and present a conclusion memo at the end.

“As a community-based restorative justice program, C4RJ provides a process toward healing and repair for victims, communities, and responsible parties while minimizing further involvement with the system,” C4RJ Executive Director Erin Freeborn said in a statement. “As we continue to expand access to restorative justice in Suffolk County, launching this pilot out of the Charlestown, Roxbury, and Chelsea courts is a significant stride. We are inspired by the long-time commitment at the SCDAO to restorative practices and are excited to support the DA’s office as it launches a formal referral process for cases at the district court level in an effort to center the needs of victims and communities, while supporting responsible parties, and building up an infrastructure for alternative approaches to cases.”

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