Some robbery, assault and sexual battery youth offenders will be given increased leniency following the announced expansion of a new District Attorney’s Office program last week.
The program, entitled Restorative Enhanced Diversion for Youth (REDY), will give youth arrested for less severe felony-level cases a chance to enroll in diversion programs.
“Eligible candidates may avoid criminal charges by agreeing to participate in an individually tailored program designed to address the underlying issues that contribute to criminal behavior, such as mental health needs or substance use,” read a statement from Gascón’s, distributed last month for the launch of the pilot program.
The move has brought on the ire of a number of Gascón’s opponents, who criticized the new policy, who feel the new program and its policies are too vague and/or do not support public safety.
In a memo distributed Thursday to all juvenile division personnel at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Sharon Woo, the chief deputy district attorney, informed staff that the program would be formally launched and “will expand the types of cases eligible for diversion.”
Thursday’s list for eligible candidates to enroll in the program includes those charged with felonious burglary, assaults (without firearms or extensive injuries), vehicle theft, robbery (without firearms, strong arming or great bodily injury), grand theft person, sexual battery or arson.
The charges excluded from the REDY pathway include the most severe felonies which include homicide or attempted homicide, or any offense where someone was seriously harmed or a gun was used.
In addition to providing them with tailored programs geared toward their social-emotional health, the programs will provide youth offenders with “restorative justice conferences” with crime victims.
““This program will help repair the immense harm that criminal behavior inflicts on our community by giving crime victims the opportunity to actively participate in the restorative justice process,” Gascón said in his November statement. No new statement on the expansion of REDY program was given upon The Signal’s request Tuesday.
Voicing opposition to the program, the L.A. County Association of Assistant District Attorneys criticized the universal nature of the program, as opposed to it taking a more nuanced approach as it had in years past.
“Suitability is no longer the standard under Gascón’s approach. Rather there’s a blanket approach regardless of the crime,” said Eric Siddall, vice president of the LAADDA. “With Gascón’s policy, you can sexually batter someone, and you may never see the inside of a courtroom. You can rob someone and may never be held accountable.”
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, a longtime critic of Gascón’s and Santa Clarita Valley resident,
“Implementing smart and safe alternatives to incarceration for juveniles, like the LASD VIDA (or Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives) program, is so important to our communities,” said Hatami. “But, Gascóns policy not only endangers the public, it actually endangers the juvenile offender as well because older gang members will try to use juveniles to commit their violent crimes, telling them, ‘Look George Gascón is DA, you really won’t get into that much trouble.’
Applicants to the program will need to be under the age of 18 years old, meet all requirements of the REDY criteria form, and the program is set to be run in conjunction with the Office of Youth Diversion and Development.