Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden Launches Pilot Alternative Justice Program

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden announced the creation of a restorative justice pilot program that will bring victims, offenders and community members together to create a case resolution option outside of the traditional court sentencing process.

The Suffolk Restorative Justice (SRJ) program will roll out in Chelsea District Court and the Charlestown and Roxbury Divisions of Boston Municipal Court.

Restorative justice is a voluntary, inclusive, confidential and collaborative process by which offenders, victims and members of the community identify and address harms, as well as any needs and obligations resulting from an offense, to help all parties understand the impact of that offense. During the restorative justice process the offender accepts responsibility for their actions and is supported in making reparations to the victim or community harmed. Restorative justice is an essential component to allow for community healing and restoration.

Hayden, who has championed progressive approaches to criminal system matters since starting as a prosecutor in the 1990s and has instituted major alternative-to-prosecution programs and diversion initiatives as DA, said the participants in the program “will collaborate on guided resolutions that feature both healing and accountability.”

“We’re always seeking paths to justice that take an innovative approach beyond the traditional adjudication and sentencing route.  Restorative justice is a perfect example of the types of approaches modern prosecution offices should embrace.  The results for participating victims, community members, and offenders can be immensely powerful,” Hayden said.

The program will include pre-adjudication cases that fall within the final jurisdiction of the district or municipal court and do not carry a mandatory minimum, do not involve allegations of sexual assault, violence against children, elders, intimate partners, persons with disabilities, serious bodily injury or death.

The applicants could include victims, defendants and/or their attorneys, Suffolk County community members impact by crimes, and law enforcement agencies.

Hayden’s office is partnering with Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) on the SRJ program.  C4RJ will facilitate the restorative process and will communicate status updates throughout a case to stakeholders and provide a conclusion memo at the end.

C4RJ Executive Director Erin Freeborn said, “As a community-based restorative justice program, C4RJ provides a process toward healing and repair for victims, communities, and responsible parties while minimizing further involvement with the system. As we continue to expand access to restorative justice in Suffolk County, launching this pilot out of the Charlestown, Roxbury, and Chelsea courts is a significant stride. We are inspired by the long-time commitment at the SCDAO to restorative practices and are excited to support the DA’s office as it launches a formal referral process for cases at the district court level in an effort to center the needs of victims and communities, while supporting responsible parties, and building up an infrastructure for alternative approaches to cases.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office serves the communities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Mass. The office handles over 20,000 cases a year. More than 160 attorneys in the office practice in nine district and municipal courts, Suffolk Superior Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, and the Boston Juvenile Courts. The office employs some 300 people and offers a wide range of services and programs to serve anyone who comes in contact with the criminal justice system. This office is committed to educating the public about the services we provide, our commitment to crime prevention, and our dedication to keeping the residents of Suffolk County safe.

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