September 18, 2014

Bringing justice down to the community

LA Daily News - City Attorney Mike Feuer announced plans Friday for a pilot program to involve community members in punishing offenders on quality-of-life issues.

“It is part of a restorative justice theory, where the community should have restored to it what was taken from it by a perpetrator — and the community should see the tangible impact on the street.”

Feuer said he hopes to create a series of local volunteer panels around the city to work with a mediator and a member of the City Attorney’s staff as citizen jurists who would determine the penalty for suspects who agree to participate. If the perpetrators do not participate, they would face criminal charges.

“We are looking at low-level, nonviolent offenses committed by those in the 18-to-25 age range,” Feuer said. “Studies show that the brain is still developing, and we can have an impact on their future lives.”

Among the violations his office would be looking at would be petty theft, furnishing alcohol or tobacco to minors and graffiti.

The program is modeled after one started in San Francisco that handles about 600 cases a year, Feuer said, as well as New York City’s community courts program.

Under restorative justice, a community aims to be repaid for damage caused by quality-of-life crimes, which most directly impact residents’ use of their neighborhoods and their perception of safety. Such remuneration doesn’t occur if a person is arrested and incarcerated.

Since the community has a stake in seeing repairs are made, Feuer said, “It is also about the person taking responsibility for their actions.”

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