On July 31, the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office and the Denver District Attorney’s Office agreed to collaborate on a project to expand the use of restorative justice practices throughout Colorado.
In what’s been called an “uncommon” partnership, a prosecutor and a criminal defender are working together to promote a process that’s been said to help heal victims and offenders and help reduce recidivism. The program, launched with the help of the Colorado Restorative Justice Council, will have attorneys from the offices developing a road map of best practices that all communities and court systems in the state can follow in using restorative procedures.
Restorative justice, which Colorado statute defines as practices that “emphasize repairing the harm to the victim and the community caused by criminal acts,” can take many forms. Oftentimes it consists of meetings or dialogues between the victim or survivor of a crime and the person who committed it, facilitated by community members who are trained to do so. In the process, which is voluntary for each side, the offender is supposed to accept responsibility for the harm he or she caused and commit to some sort of resolution, which could include an apology, community service, counseling or other remedies. In restorative justice, the process often aims for the offender’s rehabilitation rather than incarceration. It’s most widely used in juvenile cases but is seeing implementation in some adult cases.