Vermont's Court Diversion program celebrates 40 years

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Vermont's Court Diversion program celebrates 40 years

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 3:11pm -- Anonymous

Vermont Business Magazine When Keith Gallant of East Braintree heard shots one night and discovered his mailbox had been struck by shotgun slugs, he feared that he and his family had been targeted. Gallant learned otherwise, however, when he met with the teenager who had fired the shots. The meeting was part of the teen’s participation in his local Court Diversion program, a restorative justice alternative to the standard court process for youth and adults charged with a crime. As part of the process, Gallant sat with the teen and community volunteers to discuss how the teen would make amends. Gallant told the outcome of this story last night as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration of Court Diversion at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier.

“These programs have responded creatively to the needs of victims and offenders, of all ages, for over four decades,” said TJ Donovan, Attorney General of Vermont, whose office funds and oversees Court Diversion in all 14 counties. Donovan said it is hard to overstate the value of Court Diversion. “Court Diversion takes the crisis of involvement with the criminal justice system and creates an opportunity for people to take responsibility for their actions and build connections to their community. I am glad to thank Diversion staff and volunteers for the work they do,” said Donovan.

Recognizing that people and relationships have been harmed when someone commits an offense, Diversion empowers all stakeholders to collectively address the needs of the victim, the community, and the person who violated the law. The first Diversion program in Vermont opened in Washington County in 1976. Programs rapidly developed in other counties, and the Vermont Association of Court Diversion Programs formed in 1979.

“We have responded to the changes in our communities over the year and seen the transformative power of bringing people together in a restorative process ,” said Catherine Kalkstein, the chair of the Vermont Association of Court Diversion Programs.

“We cannot do this work alone,” she added. “Volunteers bring different perspectives and ideas to each meeting. Their insights and contributions are invaluable.”

Prosecutors are increasingly relying on Diversion. In fiscal year 2018, they referred over 2,600 adults and youth to Diversion; the previous year they referred 1,400. Diversion referrals account for approximately 20 percent of misdemeanor cases filed in criminal court.

Source: Attorney General 2.14.2019