CourtsCrimeHot SheetLaw

Colo. partnership to work for ‘restorative justice’

Author: Joey Bunch - August 1, 2018 - Updated: August 1, 2018

Rep. Pete Lee truantsState Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Prosecutors, public defenders and state administrators say they’ll work toward a system of justice that instills responsibility and remorse from offenders instead of longer jail sentences.

State Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, has been beating the drum for the practice called restorative justice for years. Tuesday, the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Restorative Justice Council through the State Court Administrator’s Office said they would expand the practice.

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They signed an agreement to dedicate staff and analysis into using restorative justice, training prosecutors and defense lawyers statewide in how it works.

The partnership explained it this way:

Restorative justice takes many forms, but often it is a facilitated process that provides victims, offenders and community members with an opportunity to collectively address the impact of crime and repair harm to the extent possible. Depending on the readiness of a victim and offender, RJ can take place at any point in a criminal justice system. RJ is a voluntary process that is grounded in the principles and values of building healthy relationships, respect for all people, taking responsibility for one’s own actions, repairing harm and reintegrating offenders back into the community.

The Denver DA’s Office and the State Public Defender’s Office will each get $50,000 annually from the State Court Administrator’s Office.

“I expanded the Denver DA’s juvenile diversion RJ program last year, and am pleased my office will assist through this partnership in promoting restorative justice as an effective fair and just alternative to the traditional justice system statewide,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, a former state lawmaker who supported restorative justice legislation, said in a statement.

Studies indicate restorative justice reduces recidivism while instilling accountability and remorse in offenders, according to a Tuesday press release.

“This extraordinary partnership between the Denver DA and the Public Defender’s Office will increase awareness of restorative practices with important stakeholders,” stated Melissa Westover, chair of the Colorado Restorative Justice Council. “This initiative will allow the council to move toward realizing a long-term goal of broadening restorative justice offerings to include all citizens of the state of Colorado.”

Added Colorado State Public Defender Megan Ring: “We are excited to launch this program with the Denver DA’s Office to demonstrate that restorative justice can be a more effective and community-strengthening response to criminal behavior than what the current system provides.”

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, Rep. Pete Lee’s party was misidentified.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.