SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Since its inception last year, more than 100 people have gone through Santa Cruz County’s Neighborhood Courts program, with 90 completing the requirements set out in their agreements and avoiding a permanent criminal record.
Now, the program is looking for a team of volunteers from the community to serve as panelists.
Under the program, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney routes low-level misdemeanor crimes—before officially filing charges—to a panel of community members that considers the case and decides on reparations such as community service and letters of apology to the victims.
These include hit and run, purchasing alcohol for a minor, vandalism, assault, shoplifting, being drunk in public and reckless driving. The program recently began accepting people that have minor criminal records.
During the neighborhood sessions, offenders must take responsibility for what they have done, and be willing to address the idea of the harm that came from their actions.
According to the DA’s office, the program strives to reduce recidivism by understanding the reasons why people offend, addressing the harm on the community and allowing suspects to keep the charges off their permanent record.
For information, contact Danitza Torres at 220.0221 or [email protected], or Monica Carrillo at 535.9356 or [email protected]
• Complete the application
• Pass a background check
• Two-year time commitment, one year if student
• Attend 17 hours of training
Commitment as a volunteer panelist:
• Attend monthly volunteer meeting
• Participate as an observer in a minimum of two Neighborhood Court conferences
• Participate as a panelist in Neighborhood Court conferences approximately once every two months
• Participate in at least four of eight additional trainings a year