Restorative Justice Guidelines for Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions

Restorative Justice Guidelines for Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions

Restorative Justice Guidelines for Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions

January 26, 2022 (New York, NY) - In pursuit of a more fulfilling and fair justice system that positions restorative justice as a key tool to resolve criminal matters, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College (IIP) has published its new report, Restorative Justice: A Best Practice Guide for Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions. The document is the first of a series to be produced by the IIP’s Beyond Big Cities Initiative.

The guide spotlights Beyond Big Cities members who have implemented restorative justice programs to meet the needs of the victims, society, and the accused in their communities and equips prosecutors in smaller jurisdictions with a blueprint to create their own restorative justice programs. These smaller jurisdictions handle the majority of criminal justice cases nationwide. However, their successful, groundbreaking work rarely receives the same level of attention paid to their large, well-resourced counterparts.  

“For decades, the criminal justice system has relied too much on prisons to hold the accused accountable. Restorative justice initiatives demonstrate that there are alternatives that can lead to better outcomes for everyone,” says Alissa Marque Heydari, Deputy Director of the IIP. “We believe this guide provides prosecutors in smaller jurisdictions a roadmap to forge new paths away from traditional punishment models and toward restorative justice programs that will benefit victims, the accused, and the community.”

Through restorative justice, victims are given the opportunity to not only tell their story, but to ask the accused questions. It provides the flexibility to satisfy a range of needs presented by victims, communities, and the accused in ways that are impossible to achieve through traditional prosecution.

Restorative justice focuses on all parties' long-term safety and recovery and rejects the need to assign blame. Early results are positive, with pilot programs showing high participant satisfaction, cost-savings, and reduced recidivism. Today, new programs are springing up across the country.

“It will take the commitment of prosecutors across the country to improve our criminal justice system. Large-scale discussions regarding new and innovative programs among prosecutors in small and rural jurisdictions are long overdue,” says co-author County Attorney Reese Frederickson (Pine County, Minnesota). “This guide is a much-needed resource that demonstrates that innovative criminal justice reform programs like restorative justice can be implemented in all communities, regardless of their size.”

The guide covers core restorative justice concepts, the prosecutor's role in restorative justice, advantages and challenges in implementing restorative justice in smaller jurisdictions, and unique programs tailored to those communities.

“The prosecutor plays a critical role in the criminal legal system. With the Beyond Big Cities Initiative, prosecutor offices large and small will be able to respond to community needs in innovative ways and improve public safety,” says Merisa Heu-Weller, General Manager, Microsoft Racial Equity and Justice Reform Initiative. “We look forward to seeing how offices across the country, particularly in rural areas, begin to implement these best practices.”

About the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (IIP)
The IIP provides a collaborative national platform that brings together prosecutors, policy experts, and the communities they serve to promote data-driven strategies, cutting-edge scholarship and innovative thinking. The IIP is dedicated to criminal justice that promotes community-centered standards of safety, fairness and dignity.

About the Beyond Big Cities Initiative
The Beyond Big Cities Initiative, with support from the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative, seeks to engage jurisdictions with medium and small-sized offices, particularly in rural areas. The Initiative aims to include and uplift prosecutors in smaller jurisdictions who may lack the resources of big city offices but are not lacking in their commitment to justice and equity.

About the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative
The Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative works alongside organizations to advance a more equitable justice system, so communities can thrive. We apply our technology and partner with nonprofits, local and state governments, communities, and research organizations focused on preventing justice system involvement and eliminating racial disparities in policing and prosecution practices.