Arlington prosecutor launches restorative justice program with help from federal grant.
According to the Washington Post
December 10, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EST
Parisa Tafti, the state attorney for Arlington County, seeks to expand diversion programs by her office. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
The chief prosecutor in Arlington County is launching a new diversion effort with $340,000 in funding from the Justice Department.
In a statement, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti called the grant a “game changer” that will give her office the capacity to “develop partnerships with diversion programs across the metro area, for the first time” by hiring a social worker and a data analyst.
Arlington County has a restorative justice program underway, in which people who have committed harm are given opportunities to make amends outside of the criminal justice system. The new staffers in the Virginia attorney’s office will work with that program.
“This grant award is an endorsement of the collaborative spirit that system partners here in Arlington have prioritized,” Restorative Arlington coordinator Kimiko Lighty said in the statement.
But the goal is to also identify other alternatives to prosecution, such as drug or mental health treatment, when restorative justice isn’t appropriate or a program in Arlington isn’t a good fit.
People who commit crimes in Arlington often come from outside the county, which borders Washington, Alexandria and Fairfax County. The data analyst, she added, will gauge the effectiveness of those diversion programs and help the office make “evidence-based” decisions.
Dehghani-Tafti was elected in 2019 on a campaign promising a less punitive approach to criminal justice in the county, ousting a veteran prosecutor. She has since pledged to specifically reduce racial disparities in prosecution. That program is starting next year, also with a focus on diversion programs.
Some of those efforts have been met with judicial resistance and sparked a Republican-driven recall campaign. Under President Donald Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr suggested the election of prosecutors like Dehghani-Tafti would lead to more violent crime.
The funding came through a Justice Department program launched under the Biden administration called Innovative Prosecution Solutions, which has issued more than $6 million in grants to 22 jurisdictions across the country. In the Washington region, Anne Arundel County also received a $176,800 grant to provide counseling and other services for juvenile offenders.
Rachel Weiner covers federal courts in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Va. Twitter
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