Senator Newell works to repair the harm done to victims and communities
Restorative Justice Bill clears the Senate Judiciary committee
Senator Newell (left) and Sharletta Evans (right) testifying before the committee
DENVER— A bill to help communities and victims heal from the effects of crime cleared the Senate Judiciary committee today at the State Capitol. Senator Linda Newell (D–Littleton) is the sponsor of House Bill 1032 which will allow courts to sentence suitable criminal defendants to a restorative justice program as an alternative sentencing option or as a condition of probation. The bill expands existing juvenile offender programs and creates the adult offender program. Under House Bill 1032, offenders who will NOT be eligible for restorative justice programs include defendants charged with a sex offense, domestic violence, stalking, or violation of a protection order.
Senator Linda Newell offered this comment on the passage of House Bill 1032 by the Judiciary Committee:
“By focusing on repairing the damage caused to the victims and communities along with encouraging personal responsibility, we can heal wounds and strengthen our communities. For offenders who have committed a crime and feel real remorse and want to make up for any harm they have done, restorative justice programs are a great option.”
“Restorative justice” programs utilize processes that bring together victims, defendants, and the community to cultivate a solution in order to restore the community and its members to the same condition as before the crime was committed. Good candidates for restorative justice opportunities are those who are willing to accept the responsibility for their crime, show remorse for the harm they caused, and are willing to repair the damage they caused to the victim and community.
Sharletta Evans (pictured above testifying before the committee), whose three year old son was killed in a drive-by shooting in Aurora, testified today in favor of the bill. Evans has been in communication with the offender and said the "words of heartfelt remorse" gave her "space to breathe and the courage to go on." She continued that coming face to face with the offender will help provide closure on the death of her son.
The restorative justice process bridges the gap that causes the pain and destruction from the victim to the offender. Evans has already requested a dialogue with her offender, a meeting that the restorative justice program would help facilitate.
Some studies show cuts as low as 10 percent when restorative justice programs are used. Currently, Colorado’s recidivism rate is approximately 50 percent. Restorative justice programs will save dollars in reduced crime, reduced prison inmate populations, and reduced high school dropout rates.
This bill expands the Victims Rights Act by requiring the court to inform victims of the availability of restorative justice victim offender conferences. The bill encourages schools to adopt restorative justice policies for student misconduct and authorizes the Department of Corrections and Division of Youth Corrections to set up a pilot program for victim offender dialogues. Many schools, including the University of Colorado, have already adopted a student restorative justice program on their campus.
House Bill 1032 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The bill was sponsored in the House by Representative Pete Lee (D–Colorado Springs).