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Relating to the establishment, operation, and funding of victim-offender mediation programs; authorizing fees.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 4009 would set up a framework for the commissioners court of a county or the governing body of a municipality to set up a pretrial victim-offender mediation program for juvenile offenders who have been arrested for certain offenses, exclusive of a number of violent or sexually oriented offenses specifically enumerated.
A court that implements a victim-offender mediation program may adopt administrative rules and local rules of procedure to implement or operate the program.
Specific requirements and conditions for implementing a program are specified.
The consent of the victim in the case would be needed for the case to be referred to this program and the defendant would agree to enter binding mediation. The mediation may result in requiring the defendant to apologize to the victim, complete community service, and/or pay restitution to the victim.
HB 4009 would allow the court to defer criminal proceedings if the defendant enters mediation and the court may not require the defendant to enter a guilty or no contest plea. If the mediation is not agreed upon or the defendant fails to satisfy the terms of the mediation, the case must be referred to the criminal docket and proceed through the regular criminal justice system.
HB 4009 takes a restorative approach to justice that will lead to restitution for victims and restoration for offenders. This will allow individuals to take responsibility for their actions and make things right with their victims in a way that will lead to lower costs to the justice system and reduce recidivism. This should also lead to long term reduced costs to taxpayers assuming a significant number of people go through mediation and go on to lead lives as law abiding citizens when they may otherwise have taken a path leading to more contact with the judicial system. We support HB 4009.