Testimony of Lisa Rea before the California Senate Public Safety Committee on June 16, 2009
RE: AB 114 (Carter): restorative justice with juvenile offenders
Mr. Chair & Members:
I am Lisa Rea, Strategic Consultant to the Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, a division of Prison Fellowship International based in Wash. D.C. and also Founder of The Justice & Reconciliation Project, a national organization working with victims of violent crime in support of systemic criminal justice reform. We are here today in support of AB 114. Let me begin by first thanking Assemblymember Carter for authoring this legislation.
I am a national restorative justice expert and lecturer having worked in this field for over 15 years, some of that work advocating for restorative justice here in the state of California in the 1990’s. In the last nine years I have worked in this state and nationally with victims of violent crime. Part of that experience included directing an in-prison victim offender pilot project in a Texas medium security prison in 1998 bringing together victims of violent crime and offenders to expose offenders to the pain and injury experienced by crime victims.
Increasingly, victims of crime are agreeing that restorative justice is something they strongly support. With the use of restorative justice comes increased offender accountability, which is often lacking in our current criminal justice system, and for victims of crime there is the possibility of some kind of “healing” that seldom if ever occurs in the traditional criminal justice system.
While AB 114 is not perfect we believe it is a good start. Juvenile offenders, whether nonviolent or violent, need to take responsibility for their crimes and must be given the opportunity to learn how their crimes have injured real victims. With that knowledge, offenders learn.
There is national and international research that demonstrates that restorative justice works. One Cambridge study in 2007 using evidenced based research conducted by Professor Lawrence Sherman and Dr. Heather Strang in the UK using 400-800 cases showed that with the use of restorative justice recidivism rates fell sharply. One well respected restorative justice expert who was a former London chief of police, Sir Charles Pollard, said about the study’s results:
“These results leave little doubt that RJ is both effective and cost effective at preventing crime.” He continued by saying , “Since 75 % of all convictions in England and Wales are re-convictions of repeat offenders, we could see restorative justice reduce crime substantially across the country.”
Imagine what restorative justice could do in the state of California with juvenile offenders: nonviolent and violent offenders as well as adult offenders. In conclusion, restorative justice is criminal justice reform/and prison reform on the cutting edge. There is no reason that the state of California should not commit itself to an approach to crime prevention that is good for victims and communities, is cost effective and invests in public safety.
I would now like to introduce my colleague, Russ Turner, a victim/survivor of violent crime who has supported restorative justice for many years. He will tell his story. Thank you.