Restoration justice programs are about the begin for the suspected participants in May and June 2020 police brutality riots in Philadelphia.
The novel approach would be tested for the first time on alleged participants in the protests that led to the destruction of more than 900 small business facilities.
The program is expected to start this weekend.
Larry Krasner, a District Attorney of Philadelphia, told reporters that the main goal of the program is to establish accountability for the rioters without necessarily burdening the penal system with too many convictions.
Krasner, who is often described as one of the most progressive attorneys, explained that he wants the defendants to fulfill their obligations to the business owners harmed during the protests.
Reportedly, around 80 percent of the prosecuted rioters were recommended for the restorative justice program, officially dubbed Civil Unrest Restorative Response.
In numbers, this would amount to around 500 defendants.
Most of them were accused of wrongdoings such as robberies, burglaries, and other kinds of unlawful entrances to shops such as Rite Aid and Walgreens.
The program itself would likely involve a meeting between the crime perpetrators and victims, in which the wrongdoing would be discussed along with the ways to fix the damage incurred.
Other members of the community are expected to mediate in the dialogue.
As is usually the case with innovative initiatives, the Philadelphia restoration justice program provoked conflicting reactions.
The Real Justice Political Action Committee, co-created by liberation activist Shaun King, characterized the program as '’groundbreaking’‘, emphasizing the need for uplifting the communities instead of their criminalization.
A spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kennedy said that the city officials are ready to support the program if it does not extend to the individuals accused of the most violent crimes and offenses aimed at police officers.
Judge Patrick F. Dugan, a Municipal Court President, told reporters that he has yet to decide whether charges against program participants would be canceled.
On the other hand, some small business owners expressed their fear that the restorative justice program would serve as an exculpation of the offenders.
They were particularly worried that the program would put lawbreakers before those whose property was damaged.