Attorney General Donovan created a new division called Community Justice to further criminal justice reform. This division is led by David Scherr and Willa Farrell. It seeks to improve equity, public safety, and fairness in all aspects of the criminal justice system.
Among other responsibilities the division administers the pretrial services and diversion programs statewide. These programs increase public safety by addressing the underlying causes of crime, including connecting individuals to mental health, substance use, and other services participants need. Restorative justice principles underpin the diversion program and help to ensure that victims are heard and their needs met. In the 2017 legislative session the division successfully led an effort to change the pretrial and diversion statutes in order to make the programs accessible to more people.
The division supports the Mental Health Crisis Response Commission, created by Act 45 of 2017, as it works to investigate problematic law enforcement encounters with individuals suffering from mental health crises and provide system-wide recommendations for how to improve mental health services and prevent tragic encounters.
The division is also heavily involved in leading and supporting Racial Justice Initiatives. These include redrafting a model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy with the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, and convening and providing support for the Vermont Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.