Implementing a Robust Restorative Justice Program in Travis County

November 25, 2021

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FUSE Corps

The Travis County District Attorney (DA) is at the forefront of efforts to dismantle our nation’s endemic over-reliance on incarceration, having designing a robust restorative justice pilot program for juveniles, allowing youth to resolve their offenses outside of the formal carceral system. The DA will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow for one year to first implement this pilot, and then sustain and scale the program.

This fellowship project begins on October 25, 2021, and ends on October 23, 2022. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of October 25, 2021. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on November 1, 2021.

PROJECT CONTEXT 

Over the last year, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have dramatically shifted America’s criminal justice reform landscape. Across the nation, communities have called public leaders to dismantle our nation’s endemic over-reliance on incarceration and reimagine and reconceptualize local systems of justice permanently. The Travis County District Attorney is at the forefront of these efforts. In just the last few months, the County and District Attorney have worked to bring the jail population down by about 300 people (about 20%); establish an immediate case review system to ensure that cases are not brought when there is not probable cause; and significantly expanded diversion eligibility.

The District Attorney has also prioritized restoring trust in the Office, ensuring that the County’s criminal justice system reflects the values of the community. This includes delivering and unveiling innovative public safety reforms that emphasize making communities safer by investing in support services outside of the carceral system – such as restorative justice programs. Restorative justice recognizes that crimes can cause harm to victims, and the justice system must work to repair that harm. Given this, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office has designed a robust restorative justice pilot program for juveniles. The program will operate as a collaborative partnership between the courts, multiple organizations, and the community, allowing youth to resolve their offenses outside of the formal carceral system while enabling the community to reclaim their children and their neighborhoods. 

To fulfill this vision, Travis County will partner with FUSE Corps to host an Executive Fellow for one year to implement this program. The Executive Fellow will form a cohesive and effective strategy to execute the pilot, facilitating buy-in and culture change with both internal and external stakeholders. The Executive Fellow will also play a critical role in sustaining and scaling the program, recommending a model for how restorative justice can also address domestic violence and other interpersonal crimes. This program will propel Travis County to the cutting-edge of criminal justice reform, implementing an alternative to the carceral system that improves overall public safety, addresses the root causes of many issues, and promotes racial justice.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency

Starting in November 2021, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will conduct an initial listening tour and quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including staff across County Departments, focusing on the juvenile court and probation systems; content experts; other cities with successful restorative justice programs; and non-profits and community-based organizations that administer carceral supports and wraparound services such as victim and family advocacy programs. These conversations will be essential for the Executive Fellow to understand the barriers to implementing and scaling the restorative justice pilot.

The Executive Fellow will then map out a short-term plan for implementing the juvenile-based program over the next year. The plan will include a cohesive and effective strategy around the program’s execution, establishing clear roles of internal and external stakeholders, workflows, and metrics for tracking progress. The Executive Fellow will set baseline goals for these metrics and determine a system for tracking data on the program and how this investment in crime prevention will impact broader criminal justice reform goals for the County. The Executive Fellow will also outline the processes for building the capacity of the juvenile program over the long term, proposing alterations to policy if needed, managing gaps in resources, including building fiscal, technological, or staff capacity; establish key communication pathways between the District Attorney’s Office, courts, support providers, and community members; and determine the operations of liaising consistently across these stakeholders as the program scales. 

The Executive Fellow will then initiate activities that are most urgent or considered low-hanging fruit. This will include facilitating the adoption of the juvenile program system-wide. The Executive Fellow will manage culture change around using this new resource, introducing concrete process changes to embed the program as an essential element in the court system. The Executive Fellow must establish buy-in from the juvenile court and probation department staff, officers, and administrators and build trust with the community during implementation. During this time, the Executive Fellow should also determine how to scale the program financially. This will include modeling the financial commitments or resource investments required, and mapping resource distribution to community-based partners to facilitate implementation.

In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will form recommendations to scale the program beyond juveniles, explicitly focusing on the domestic or intimate partner violence community and related offenders. The Executive Fellow will convene varying focus groups or townhalls of community members, the survivor community, institutional partners, and support providers to form a vision of success for this broader program. The Executive Fellow will collate ideas, reservations and analyze any local options already in place, as generated by these stakeholders. The Executive Fellow will conduct extensive research into similar programs nationally, capturing best practices, lessons learned, methodologies of approach, and policy implications. The Executive Fellow will utilize these conversations and analysis to guide how Travis County designs and pursues expanding the restorative justice program beyond youth in the long term.

By October 2022, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:

  • Establish an implementation plan for the program – Build out a cohesive and effective strategy around the program’s execution to fully implement the juvenile pilot over the next year; determine which current policy should be tweaked or resolved; establish a framework outlining priority areas and clear roles and responsibilities of internal and external stakeholders; form clear lines of communication across stakeholders; map resources and determine gaps; identify barriers to implementing the program; build cross-departmental collaborations and private-public partnerships to facilitate implementation; solicit and incorporate input from stakeholders to build buy-in and consensus around the plan
  • Implement juvenile program and establish buy-in across stakeholders – Support capacity building, creating internal and external infrastructure and systems; support change management, education in, and usage of the program; form an impactful business case, garner buy-in from internal and external stakeholders; leverage community-based partners, distributing resources equitably; incorporate and socialize best practice and procedures of similar programs nationally; determine how to measure outcomes and assess progress, identifying relevant data and metrics and integrating a system of tracking progress
  • Participate in deep community engagement, forming recommendations to scale the program – Connect with individuals, advocacy groups, and community-based organizations to understand community needs; outline creative and effective outreach strategy and create strong feedback loops with residents (townhall models, social media, canvassing, etc.); bring forward the community-voice to articulate strategies and services that will have the most community impact; build community trust in the program; conduct extensive research into similar programs nationally, review any data or cases studies on these programs, building a data-driven business case for expanding the pilot to include domestic-violence related programing
  • Ensure initiative longevity – Detail the financial commitments and resources necessary to sustain and scale the program, planning to leverage multiple funding streams over time; build a marketing and fundraising strategy, focusing on the potential impact of the program, identifying potential grant opportunities, and supporting grant applications; develop the required systems to ensure that strategies are sustainable and successfully implemented; support capacity building, work with stakeholders and department leadership to manage the program; integrate accountability mechanisms for long-term deployment of the program

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – José Garza, District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney
  • Project Supervisor – Erin Martinson, Director – Special Victims Unit, Office of the District Attorney
  • Leslie Booker, Director – Juvenile & Child Protective Services Division, Office of the District Attorney
  • Megan­ Crenshaw, Team Lead – Juvenile & Child Protective Services Division, Office of the District Attorney
  • Trudy Strassburger, First Assistant District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience in project management, JD preferred
  • Experience working in politically charged environments, prowess in managing delicate situations or stakeholders with patience
  • Background in strategic planning and implementing systems-focused initiatives and policy regarding the justice system, particularly in the areas of crime prevention, victim advocacy, and community-based supports
  • Lived experience with the criminal justice system critical
  • Understanding of criminal justice system administration and court processes desirable
  • Robust community engagement skills, working knowledge of issues related to victims of intimate partner or domestic violence
  • Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Resiliency, having thrived in high-pressure and complex environments
  • Strong change management skills
  • Easily able to communicate wins and utilize data to make a business case
  • Robust success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Easily able to pivot and create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
  • A self-motivated, goal-oriented, and entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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