(KPIX 5) — An East Bay man has founded a non-profit aimed at reducing the number of juvenile offenders who get caught in the revolving door of the justice system.
Alex Busanky knows the criminal justice system well. As a former trial attorney for the US Department of Justice in Washington DC, he saw firsthand the need for justice reform.
Nearly 2.3 million people are incarcerated every year in the United States, at an annual cost of $74 billion dollars, with many re-entering the system again and again.
48,000 of those are juveniles.
“If you look at our prison system in America, the recidivism rate in some places is as high as 70 percent, maybe 60 percent, 50 percent, 40 percent,” said Busansky. “Pick your big number.”
Those big numbers haunted Busansky, and ultimately led the former prosecutor to found Impact Justice, an East Bay non-profit. One area it focuses on is providing support to recently incarcerated individuals and the communities in which they live. “For those people leaving the system, what can we do to help set their trajectory for success as high as possible,” explained Busansky.
Since 2015 Impact Justice has grown to more than 50 employees, and its programs, which include housing assistance for those recently released from prison, have spread nationwide.
Impact Justice has also worked with over 50 non-profit, community and governmental organizations.
But its Impact Justice’s Restorative Justice program for youth, that’s trying to prevent young people from ending up in the Justice system in the first place.
Stephanie Medley with the RYSE Center in Richmond, is working to bring the innovative program to her community.https://rysecenter.org/
Impact Justice will train RYSE Center staff to use a restorative justice model, where young people will be required to meet directly with those they have harmed to make it right.
The meetings will be designed to take place under the careful supervision of center staff.
“They are able to be accountable,” emphasized Medley. “Fully accountable for a harm that they have caused.”
It’s a level of accountability that Busansky hopes will heal communities one young life at a time, while also allowing crime victims the opportunity to have their voices heard in a safe and supportive space. RYSE staff say the plan for now is to implement the restorative justice program in West Contra Costa County. But both RYSE and Impact Justice plan to expand the program to the entire county within the next few years.
Busansky hopes community support will steer young people away from the justice system.
“If you have… a loved one who is a young person when you can keep them out of the system, “said Busansky. “And at the same time deal with who they are and the accountability that you know that they need for what they’ve done, you’ve changed the trajectory of their life forever.”