Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Neighborhood Court brings restorative justice concept to Davis

Davis Police Chief Landy Black displays a yellow "ticket," which he calls "advice and election cards." Davis Police will begin giving them out for various infractions on Wednesday. Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | April 26, 2013 | Leave Comment

Each year, the Davis and UC Davis police departments collectively issue more than 1,000 citations for low-level misdemeanors and infractions, sparking a process that can result in multiple court hearings and costly legal fees. Starting next week, however, some of those incidents will be handled quite differently.

In those cases, the offenders will receive yellow slips of paper inviting them to participate in Neighborhood Court, a diversion program launched by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in which certain misdeeds are addressed in confidential hearings involving the perpetrator, the victim and a trained panel of local citizens, rather than through the traditional court system.

Offered both in the city of Davis and at UCD, the program will be only the second of its kind in California. Inspired by a similar initiative launched two years ago in San Francisco, Neighborhood Court is based on the concept of “restorative justice” — focusing on the needs of the victim, the offender and the community, all of whom take an active role in repairing the harm.

“It’s a radically different approach to dealing with low-level crimes,” District Attorney Jeff Reisig said in a recent interview.

Neighborhood Court is designed for first-time adult offenders of what Davis Police Chief Landy Black calls “quality of life” violations, such as noise complaints, some alcohol-related misdemeanors and infractions, petty theft, property damage and public urination, to name a few of the roughly 20 offenses that qualify.

“These situations will be resolved quickly,” Black said, rather than take weeks or even months to work their way through the courts. City cops begin handing out the yellow “tickets” — Black calls them “advice and election cards” — on Wednesday, while UCD police got started during last Saturday’s Picnic Day festivities.

Each case must meet certain criteria to be eligible for Neighborhood Court. In addition to involving a low-level crime that’s not a repeat offense, both the victim and the offender must agree to participate, and the offender can’t use the forum to contest his or her guilt.

“They’re essentially admitting they did the crime, and now they’re making it right,” Reisig said. “They’re accepting responsibility.”

Working cooperatively, the victim, offender and citizens’ panel create an agreement that is tailored to reflect the harm that was caused. Possible outcomes could include community service, counseling, or something as simple as a letter of apology from the offender to the victim.

In San Francisco, the program has grown to include 10 neighborhood court panels throughout the city, which collectively handled nearly 700 cases last year.

Neighborhood Court has the potential for removing hundreds of cases from the Yolo court docket as well, though Reisig stressed that’s not the driving force behind the program. While the victim is made whole, the offender also benefits by avoiding the time-consuming and expensive process of going to court, as well as the stigma of a conviction on their record.

“It’s not about shaming the offenders,” Reisig said. “It’s about treating them with respect and dignity, but also making sure there’s an awareness of the harm the behavior has caused.”

Reisig said he recently attended one Neighborhood Court session in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood in which the offender, an out-of-town visitor, had been caught urinating in a public park. After offering an explanation for his offense and hearing first-hand its impacts on the park’s neighbors, the man contributed to the community by volunteering at a local homeless shelter.

“It takes the focus off of punishment and puts it back on restoration,” potentially reducing recidivism rates too, Black said. “This is the sort of thing that really fits Davis.”

UCD Police Chief Matt Carmichael agreed. He said his officers handed out about a dozen of the yellow Neighborhood Court “tickets” on Picnic Day, mostly for alcohol-related offenses such as public intoxication and open containers.

“Our community’s extremely excited about the potential of Neighborhood Court and restorative justice,” Carmichael said. “We have support from all members of the community.”

If successful, the program could branch out to other Yolo County communities, Reisig said.

The DA’s Office is currently recruiting volunteers from Davis to serve on the neighborhood panels, who will receive 20 hours of formal training in restorative justice, problem-solving and cultural sensitivity issues, Reisig said. Participants should be prepared to commit one or two hearings per month, with each session lasting four to six hours.

Each panel will comprise anywhere from two to five citizens, who will receive guidance from a neutral facilitator extensively trained in mediation.

A diverse cross-section of the community, including residents, business owners, students and retirees are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit www.yoloda.org, call 530-681-6323 or email neighborhoodcourt@yolocounty.org.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Benefit set for local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1

     
     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6