(Photo courtesy of RYSE Youth Center)

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has received a $1 million state grant to establish a countywide juvenile diversion pre-filing program focusing on “restorative justice,” in which young people who have committed crimes work with their victims to atone for damages made.

This will be the first countywide juvenile diversion program for Contra Costa County, and comes on the announcement earlier this spring that the district attorney’s office was starting a pilot program in Richmond for the fall of 2019. The California Board of State and Community Corrections grant will enable the pilot program in Richmond to be expanded and eventually taken countywide.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office will join with the Contra Costa County Department of Probation, the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond and Oakland-based Impact Justice to start a restorative justice program designed to redirect youth from the juvenile and criminal justice system. The grant will help cover that work for four years.

“I am proud to have this program for the first-time ever in our county’s history,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said in a statement. “Our office has a crucial role to play in reducing the pipeline into the juvenile justice system while at the same time, reducing disparities in the entire criminal justice system. We have invest in our youth to ensure they have other opportunities in their lives.”

Contra Costa hopes to divert up to 230 youths away from the juvenile justice system through the program enabled by the state grant.

A similar restorative program proved to be successful in Alameda County, where young people who participated in the program were 44 percent less likely to recidivate compared to similarly situated probation youth. The program carries a one-time cost of $4,500 per case, while probation costs $23,000 per year and incarceration costs nearly $500,000 annually.