The County of Santa Cruz recently received a grant that it hopes will help reduce recidivism for 300 people currently enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
The grant, totaling nearly $6 million, will be used to expand diversion opportunities, including greater substance-use-disorder and mental-health treatment options, an expansion of the county’s Neighborhood Courts program and earlier interventions for those accused of low-level, non-violent offenses.
The grant is the second awarded to the county through voter-approved Prop 47, a 2014 law that reduced certain low-level drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors in an effort to divert people from the criminal justice system. The resulting savings from Prop 47 are deposited into a statewide Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund, which is then distributed to local jurisdictions through a competitive grant process.
The county used a portion of its first grant allocation to establish the pilot for Neighborhood Courts, a program that uses trained citizen volunteers to determine the outcome for offenders who commit low-level misdemeanor crimes. The program’s goal is to reduce the caseload on the overburdened local court system, as well as reduce reoffense rates and allow offenders to keep criminal convictions off of their records.
The most recent grant will help the county expand its Coordinated Access for Empowering Success (CAFES) program, a collaboration of the Santa Cruz County Probation Department, the newly formed Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, Santa Cruz County Superior Court and County Behavioral Health. According to the county, 72% of the funding will be allocated to community-based organizations to support CAFES. The grant includes an independent evaluation component to assure the program is delivering results. For information, visit tinyurl.com/SCCProp47.