San Joaquin District Attorney Receives $5 Million for Restorative Justice Program

October 7, 2020 at 7:14 pm

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office received a $5 million grant from the state on Wednesday for Project Navigate Construction Change, its restorative justice program. The office also received $1.8 million from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for its Victim/Witness Assistance Program.

Project Navigate Construction Change (PNCC) provides an alternative to incarceration for offenders typically from 18 to 24 years old. Participants are in the program for approximately 9 months and are selected by defense attorneys, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, and sometimes even judges. Individuals also must plead guilty to their charge (although their sentencing is postponed pending completion of the program) and have support from the victims of their crime to enter.

Once admitted, they pursue goals such as getting a GED, mental health treatment, obtaining a driver’s license, assistance with job searches, and/or community service. These goals are unique to each person, and are chosen via an evaluation with the county’s Probation Department and Behavioral Health Services. During the program, victims are also given an opportunity to discuss the crime with offenders. Victims must also be paid any required restitution in full.

The goal of PNCC is to have participants’ charges reduced or have their cases dismissed altogether, as criminal convictions often significantly impact their choice of educational and employment opportunities. The thinking is that by giving these individuals a second chance, they will be significantly less likely to reoffend.

More than 100 people have completed the program since its inception in 2015. Out of those, only seven have had another conviction.

County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Derman said that the $5 million could be used to expand the volume of cases, type of cases, age range, and restorative justice services that the program covers.