New funding will allow Restorative Justice Program to expand from adolescents to adults
The program has resulted in a recidivism rate of only 6%, far less than the national recidivism rate of 40% for non-violent offenders
KINGSTON, N.Y. – County Executive Pat Ryan and District Attorney David Clegg have announced a new Restorative Justice Program for young adults ages 18 to 26. This program builds upon the County’s current successful Restorative Justice program offered to youth up to age 18. Restorative Justice is an innovative, alternative approach to justice in which the response to a crime or error in judgement is to help the responsible individual find an alternative path to make amends. The goal is to negotiate for a resolution to repair the harm to the victim or community and that will assist the person in making positive decisions concerning their future.
The program utilizes a proven method through Restorative Justice Conferences, which are planned face-to-face meetings (“Circles”) between the individuals being referred and those they have directly and indirectly affected. Since the program started in Ulster County, nearly 300 Restorative Justice Circles have been completed, resulting in a recidivism rate of only 6%, far less than the national recidivism rate of 40% for non-violent offenders.
“From day one, one of my ‘Big Five’ priorities was to ensure we are providing justice for all residents and enacting real change to implement needed criminal justice reforms,” County Executive Ryan said. “Through partnering with our District Attorney and our Sheriff, I am proud that we are able to expand what has already been an incredibly successful, innovative program among our youth to our young adults. Here in Ulster County, we’re setting an example on alternatives to incarceration by making the investment and doing the work to ensure we’re responding to our community with care and compassion.”
“One of the important goals of the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office is to reduce crime by focusing on rehabilitation and preventing recidivism,” Ulster County District Attorney David Clegg said. “Restorative Justice encourages rehabilitation by requiring full accountability from the offender. Our new Restorative Justice program will help address crime and harm through a lens of increased public safety and healing. The commitment of County Executive Pat Ryan to this important criminal justice reform is key to enabling the start up of this program, which will be in collaboration with Ulster County Probation and Family of Woodstock.”
“Restorative Justice considers all the stakeholders – victims, community members, and even offenders,” Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa said. “In order for Restorative Justice to move communities forward away from crime, the movement must work to provide other avenues pre and post incarceration, and to bridge the socio-economic divide which hinders the underprivileged and communities of color in particular. I am thankful and supportive of the collaboration of the County Executive, District Attorney and the Criminal Justice system.”
“I am truly pleased that the months of effort by the legislative Restorative Justice Committee under the leadership of the District Attorney, David Clegg, as well as Probation and Family of Woodstock will now be supported by stable funding from County Executive Ryan to ensure that it's goal - to provide a community centered alternative to the traditional criminal justice process - is fully realized,” said Legislator Eve Walter, Chair of the Ulster County Legislature Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee.
The adult restorative justice program will refer to programs and services that offer support to participants in order to give them a better opportunity to achieve success. Programs that may be utilized include employment and training, substance abuse support, mental health support and more. The District Attorney has discretion as to which defendants may qualify for the Restorative Justice program. The program is only eligible for those charged with certain misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. The victim of the alleged crime must also agree to the Restorative Justice program. Those who successfully complete the Restorative Justice program may have their cases dismissed.
This program is a part of County Executive Ryan’s Big Five priority to “Ensure Justice for All Residents,” including the ramping up of resources focused on addressing this goal through the 2021 Executive Budget. County Executive Ryan unveiled his 2021 Executive Budget last week that included targeted investments in community care and prioritized a new approach to justice reform. This included an agreement that will save taxpayers over $1 million in the 2021 Executive Budget by rightsizing staff at the Ulster County Jail to reflect declining inmate populations. In addition, through the 2021 Executive Budget, $900,000 in funding will be allocated to expand the Mobile Mental Health Team. The increase will allow for the hiring of a full time social worker to be located at the 911 Emergency Center. Residents who are experiencing a mental health crisis who call 911 will now be met with a trained trauma informed emergency response.