Community service would combine youth outreach and soul-searching

At Friday’s sentencing hearing for Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros, Defense Attorney Ethan Levi proposed a restorative justice program for her, to be overseen by Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove nonprofit known primarily for educating and empowering low-income Latino women and their families.

Bridget Cooke, Adelante’s executive director, testified before Washington County Circuit Court Judge Rick Knapp about the details of a restorative justice proposal she had mapped out for Garcia.

“Making sense of what happened is impossible,” Cooke said, referring to the tragic accident that killed Abigail Robinson, 11, and Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, 6. “One way to help the parents restore hope is by helping Cinthya Garcia learn from her mistakes.”

Cooke proposed 500 hours of community service in which Garcia would talk to people at schools, churches and elsewhere about her mistakes and about the children she killed.

Garcia would speak to youth about the importance of “doing the right thing, no matter how difficult,” Cooke said.

“Restorative justice mandates real consequences for her bad decisions,” Cooke said, “consequences that require deep soul-searching.”

The program supervisor would lead Garcia through a “reflective process” to make sure she understands the full impact of the children’s deaths and her decision not to return to the scene of the accident.

“We will be helping to create something positive from this tragedy,” Cooke said.

Pamela Hiller of the Multnomah County Health Department then testified about a restorative justice plan she supervised for Andrew Perez, a Portland youth who was cleaning his shotgun in 2009 when he accidentally shot and killed his best friend, Chance Caron. They were both 18 at the time.

In his presentations, Perez talks about the poor choices he made and also about Chance, which makes Chance and his memory an important part of the recovery process, Hiller said.

Restorative justice is not a “get out of jail free” card, Hiller said. “It is a very hard process. Andrew would probably tell you that going to jail would have been easier,” she said. “But this was better.”

She said young people have been moved and changed by Perez’s presentation. It has also helped the healing process for Chance’s mother, who attends the presentations.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey was more skeptical of the proposal. “I don’t trust a restorative justice program to accomplish the goals that our criminal justice system is set up to handle,” he said.

After sentencing Garcia to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service, Knapp declined to endorse the restorative justice plan. Instead, he said Cooke and Levi could pitch it to the Probation and Parole Division of the county’s Community Corrections Department, which would be in charge of Garcia’s community service.

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