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Criminal Justice Reform

Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto has made criminal justice reform a priority, with a myriad of revolutionary programs offering alternatives to traditional prosecution for appropriate, low-level misdemeanor crimes. Under the umbrella of the Outreach and Restorative Justice Division, these neighborhood-focused, alternative sentencing and diversionary programs emphasize repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and holding the offender accountable. These programs seek to address root causes of criminal behavior and achieve incarceration reduction, and are centered on the four pillars of restorative justice, which are Inclusion, Encounter, Amends and Reintegration.

  • Inclusion: City Attorney prosecutors are authorized to facilitate alternative approaches by including the stakeholders most impacted by the criminal behavior – the victims, offenders and community – to participate meaningfully in a transformative process to address the crime and its impact on everyone involved.
  • Encounter: How the offender encounters the criminal justice system is also key to this work, with City Attorney prosecutors creating safe spaces outside of traditional venues of justice to resolve the impact of crime in a more intimate and profound way.
  • Amends: Unlike the traditional way in which crimes have been adjudicated (courts, prosecutors, police, schools, etc.), offenders are given the opportunity to make amends and express remorse.
  • Reintegration: Each offender is given a unique engagement plan tailored to their particular needs and circumstances in order to support a successful reintegration into their communities following participation. The goal is that they have no future contact with the criminal justice system. 

Outreach Programs

Programs that are an integral part of the problem-solving and crime prevention strategies which are essential for crime reduction and public safety.

Dispute Resolution Program (DRP)
For over 30 years, DRP has been providing mediation at no cost to residents, businesses and entities in the City of Los Angeles. Mediation is a form of dispute resolution in which a neutral third party called a mediator helps the people involved resolve conflict and find common ground. The process is confidential and voluntary and the mediator does not have a stake in the outcome. Types of disputes for which DRP can be beneficial include landlord/tenant, neighbor/neighbor, business/customer, and family/domestic, among others. An additional mediation offered is the community/police mediation, which provides the opportunity for community members to address complaints of police discourtesy and bias, and build better understanding between police officers and the people they serve. DRP offers its Basic Mediation Training at no cost to community members interested in becoming volunteer mediators. If you have a conflict you wish to resolve, or would like to learn about becoming a volunteer Community Mediator, go to the DRP webpage.

Diversion, Outreach & Opportunities for Recovery (LA DOOR)
LA DOOR is a comprehensive, health-focused, preventative approach to addiction that proactively engages individuals at elevated risk of returning to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office on a new misdemeanor offense related to substance use, mental illness, or homelessness. Over 90% of LA DOOR participants are homeless. Rather than waiting to charge new arrests, LA DOOR delivers peer-led, multidisciplinary social services to five "hotspot" locations - one for each day of the week - to proactively engage participants in substance use treatment, mental health support, medical treatment, and case management – all without asking law enforcement to be the first point of contact. Though most participants are engaged through outreach, LA DOOR also offers diversion on eligible non-violent arrests. Participants who go through LA DOOR diversion can take advantage of LA DOOR services instead of having their arrest processed for charging.

To implement LA DOOR, the Office of the City Attorney partners with SSG Project 180 for its outreach and intensive outpatient case management services, West Angeles Community Development Corporation for LA DOOR transitional housing, and the Public Defender’s Office for addressing participants’ legal barriers. Since 2017, LA DOOR has served over 1,500 individuals in South and Central LA, with over 60% completing two months of case management services, over 350 clients receiving field-based substance use treatment, with more than 100 clients linked to detox or residential drug treatment, over 300 receiving mental health care including over 70 people enrolled in intensive outpatient treatment, and over 200 placed into transitional housing including LA DOOR grant-funded housing. LA DOOR is funded by grants from Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. The LA DOOR project is one of several projects created by the City Attorney’s Recidivism Reduction and Drug Diversion Unit. For more information, email Arthur Camegla, Program Director. 

Victim Assistance Program (VAP)
Crime victims commonly face hardship, emotional trauma, and may need assistance. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Victim Assistance Program was created to protect the rights of victims while providing services that meet the unique needs of those impacted by crime. Funded by several grants, VAP assists victims and family members recover from trauma suffered due to crime, while increasing the victim/witness' active participation in the adjudication of an offense. 

Program services include: referrals to victim service agencies, assistance in filing for the state Victim of Crime compensation for out-of-pocket medical, wage loss, relocation, and funeral and burial expenses. VAP services new and continuing victims of crime including: domestic violence; sexual assault, child & elder abuse; robbery/assaults, hate crime, human trafficking, rape, arson, driving under the influence, hit and run, and homicides. For more information email Derek Tennell, VAP Program Director, or go to the VAP website.

Children Exposed to Violence (CEV / REACH Program)
Children Exposed to Violence (CEV) began in 2018 in the Watts neighborhood of Southeast Los Angeles with the premise that if children hear gunfire or see its aftermath, they are victims of the incident whether they verbally express it or not. Since the inception of this program, CEV has expanded to all of Southeast Los Angeles.

CEV’s goal is to reach children (minors under 18) within the first 24 hours of being exposed to violence. The project team includes the Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII), the Los Angeles Police Department, the Housing Authority, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Watts Gang Task Force and several intervention workers, community leaders, and clergy. The CEV team serves as educators and trainers to parents, schools and community groups. CII is also the therapeutic partner at the scene. They connect children and families to various services addressing gun violence and other traumas that they may be enduring as a result of ongoing community and in-home violence. For more information email Lara Drino, Program Director, or go the CEV webpage.

Prosecutor Led Programs

Programs offered at the point of law enforcement contact or at the time criminal charges are filed.

Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP)
NJP is a restorative justice program centered on peace-keeping through community empowerment. The ultimate measure of its success lies in its 5% recidivism rate for the thousands who have completed the program. NJP began as a pre-filing diversion but expanded to accept post-filing diversion cases and individuals with minimal criminal history. Every week, trained community volunteers called “panelists” meet throughout the City, or virtually, for an NJP Panel. This is where they directly engage with the participants to discuss the crime, the reasons it was committed, and the harm it caused. The victims are also invited to join the dialogue. The panelists work with the participants to discuss what restorative obligations ("amends") are appropriate to right the wrong, given the crime and the harm caused. Obligations may include community service, letters of apology, restitution, and relevant classes. If the participant completes these obligations in eight weeks, there will be no further criminal prosecution. If the participant fails to complete the obligations, the case is referred back to the regular course of prosecution in court. All misdemeanor charges are eligible with the exception of certain crimes. For more information email Saminh Greenberg, Supervising Attorney, or go to the NJP webpage.

City Attorney Hearings
A City Attorney hearing is an informal proceeding that is conducted as an alternative to a misdemeanor criminal prosecution. The purpose is to develop alternative resolution in cases where a crime has been committed but prosecution may be inappropriate. This may include advising respondents of the nature of their offenses and the potential serious criminal consequences should the behavior be repeated. Hearing officers also work to achieve compliance with various code requirements in cases referred by City agencies after previous attempts at obtaining compliance have been ineffective. Hearing officers also provide appropriate information and referrals to the parties. For more information email Saminh Greenberg, Supervising Attorney.

Mental and Behavioral Health Unit and Rapid Diversion
Understanding that some individuals are better served by mental health services and treatment instead of incarceration, pre-plea diversion under California Assembly Bill 1810 is an innovative approach to dealing with offenders who suffer from mental illness and - in many instances - are experiencing homelessness. The Rapid Diversion Program (RDP) expedites evaluation for this diversion and connection to treatment.  Funded with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, led by the Los Angeles County Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Initiative, and in partnership with many local agencies, RDP is a collaborative effort to efficiently and effectively address the root causes of behavior. In RDP, an LA County Department of Mental Health expert is able to recommend the defendant for pre-plea diversion under this approach. A defendant who complies with the conditions of diversion will have their case dismissed. This approach can yield significant benefits: reducing pretrial incarceration rates for those suffering from mental illness; decreasing costs related to the incarceration of those suffering from mental illness; increasing service linkage rates for justice-involved individuals suffering from mental illness; and ultimately, lowering recidivism rates for those suffering from mental illness. 

Transition Age Youth Diversion
In collaboration with the LA County Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender, prosecutors offer self-empowerment focused diversion for persons between the ages of 18-25. The Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) is the City Attorney’s lead non-profit agency partner providing case management and social services to address the needs of this vulnerable and underserved population. Transitional age youth may be selected for one of two City Attorney programs based on the following eligibility criteria:

  • Community United for Resolution & Empowerment (CURE): Young adults who commit gang-related misdemeanor offenses and who are otherwise eligible for a sentence of probation for certain offenses are identified and provided the opportunity to participate in leadership development, career planning, and education programming at CRCD as an alternative to sentencing and jail time.
  • Transition Age Youth Diversion Pilot (TAYDP): CRCD works with prosecutors to select candidates from arraignment court who are in need of special services given their situation as developing young adults coming from underserved communities. The selected candidate is required to waive time for arraignment and is placed on informal diversion for six months. They must enter into a contract to check in with their CRCD case manager regularly, enroll in an academic program or obtain employment, complete 20 hours of civic engagement, and complete other restorative terms.

For more information email Erika Sandoval, Supervising Attorney.

Record Clearing Programs

Programs that help justice-involved individuals get back “on track” after they have gone through the criminal process.

Clean Slate
The Clean Slate program is aimed at addressing a key issue faced by unhoused defendants, namely that they can be denied housing or a job because they have an unresolved misdemeanor case or warrant. Through Clean Slate, social service providers identify unhoused clients with unresolved misdemeanor cases that are in the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles. If there are no ongoing public safety issues, a member of the City Attorney’s Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART) works with defense counsel to resolve the cases. Resolutions are designed to encourage the client to continue their work with the service provider to move out of homelessness. After the client completes this work, the misdemeanor cases are often dismissed which allows the unhoused client to move into housing or employment with a clean slate. For more information, email HEART, go to the HEART website, or call 213-978-1937.

Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART)
HEART runs L.A. Homeless Court, a criminal record clearing program for people who are either experiencing homelessness or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. HEART helps participants resolve L.A. County infraction tickets for minor violations, such as jaywalking, having an open container, or having expired car registration tags (but not parking citations). These tickets are wiped clean in exchange for service engagement with resources or service providers that offer housing, public benefits enrollment, drug treatment, medical care, or job training. By eliminating the collateral consequences of the unpaid fines and fees from these infraction tickets, HEART helps remove barriers to housing, transportation and employment faced by program participants.

HEART is funded with a Measure H grant from the LA County Board of Supervisors and enrolls approximately 1,000 participants each year - oftentimes resolving multiple infraction tickets for each participant. HEART meets its participants at several in-person community events each month. Also, service providers can sign-up participants by email, phone - 213-978-1937, or by going to the HEART website.

For people experiencing homelessness needing help with L.A. City parking citations, visit LADOT's Community Assistance Parking Program.