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Randomized Control Trial Focused on San Francisco Restorative Justice Program Finds 30% Reduction in Rearrests

A new policy brief from the nonpartisan California Policy Lab finds that a juvenile restorative justice program that serves as an alternative to traditional criminal justice processing resulted in a 30% reduction in recidivism over four years. The researchers focused on Make-it-Right (MIR), a diversion program run by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office that gives juveniles an opportunity to make amends instead of being charged by the prosecutor.

“The results from this program are striking,” comments Alissa Skog, a report co-author and Senior Research Associate at the California Policy Lab. “Creating this opportunity to make amends is not only good for those individuals who had the charges dropped and who were less likely to be arrested again, it also paid big societal dividends in terms of keeping youth out of the justice system.”

To understand if this program could help reduce recidivism, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón implemented a randomized control trial (RCT) from October 2013 to May 2019 and the office partnered with CPL to analyze the results. The MIR program continued after the RCT ended and District Attorney Chesa Boudin expanded eligibility for the program after he took office in 2020. This new policy brief is based on a working paper which is also available on CPL's website.

First look: Alissa Skog, a co-author of the new research, and Demarris Evans from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, were interviewed by Marisa Lagos with KQED about the findings and the impact of the program: KQED Interview.