DA Gascón Launches Neighborhood Prosecution Program

May 17, 2011

CONTACT: Erica Terry Derryck, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167
ADA Seth Steward, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1014

Revamped Neighborhood Courts in the Bayview and Mission Apply Restorative Justice Approach

SAN FRANCISCO – District Attorney George Gascón announced today the launch of the Neighborhood Prosecution Program in the Bayview and Mission districts. The program brings immediacy to the resolution of crimes that diminish the livability of local communities by employing a restorative justice model. The Neighborhood Prosecution Program also brings the District Attorney’s Office into the community, positioning the Office to be more directly and immediately responsive to the needs of community members.

“From my decades of working in law enforcement, I know that it isn’t the severity of the punishment, but the assurance of a swift and certain consequence that changes behavior and deters repeat criminal conduct in the future,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “The Neighborhood Prosecution Program engages residents in the process of determining an appropriate sanction focused on repairing the harm done to the community and setting the offender on the path to long-term productivity. This approach will bring a swifter and more certain resolution to offenses that have repeatedly gone unchecked for too long.”

The program works by assigning a designated Assistant District Attorney to a local police station to immediately pre-screen eligible individuals and swiftly determine whether the offenses they have been cited for by police are suitable to be heard in Neighborhood Courts. Under the supervision of the District Attorney’s Office local residents are trained in restorative justice to adjudicate matters, instead of having cases charged and heard in criminal courts. The adjudicators represent a wide swath of the community and include: merchants, home owners retirees and students.

A range of non-violent offenses from drinking in public to vandalism and petty theft fit the criteria for matters that can be reviewed in the Neighborhood Court setting. Eligible individuals cannot be under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Individuals who volunteer to have their matters heard in the Neighborhood Courts agree to abide by the prescribed outcomes that focus on restoring both the community and the offender. Individuals who are successful in meeting the terms avoid the blight of a mark on their criminal record. By taking this restorative justice approach, the program seeks to break the cycle of crime. It increases the accountability of the offenders to the community and the community’s stake in the offenders’ rehabilitation.

Additionally, the Neighborhood Prosecution model saves money by significantly shortening the length of time it takes to resolve offenses. Typically the offenses being heard in a Neighborhood Court in one to two weeks from the time a citation is written, would take nine months to a year to be heard in a criminal court. The average cost of having these cases charged and heard in a traditional criminal court would be $1500 per misdemeanor compared to $300 in a Neighborhood Court.

The Neighborhood Prosecution Program operates under the direction of the newly-formed Collaborative Courts Division of the District Attorney’s Office. The Bayview and Mission district launches are part of District Attorney Gascón’s initiative to increase accountability and integration of the former Community Court programs. The Neighborhood Prosecution Program model will eventually be adopted and employed City-wide, district by district as a replacement for the former model.