$6 million grant awarded to reduce the return of criminals to the justice system


Santa Cruz County will use a $6 million grant to expand treatment options for substance abuse and mental health disorders, neighborhood courts and early interventions to reduce recidivism in the county, it was announced Monday. officials.

Recidivism, the tendency of a convicted felon to re-offend, was addressed statewide in 2014 when voters approved Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. The proposal implemented changes to felony sentencing laws, including reclassifying certain property crimes and low-level drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

The year after the election measure was passed, a report by Stanford University’s Justice Advocacy Project found that Prop 47 had reduced California’s prison population by 13,000 and would allow the state to save about $150 million in 2015.

Savings from the new law are deposited into a statewide “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund,” which is distributed to local jurisdictions through a competitive grant process.

Santa Cruz County previously secured a grant from the fund and used the money to start the Neighborhood Courts Pilot Project and implement other diversions for low-level, non-violent offenders.

The county has had good preliminary results, with an 11.84% recidivism rate for participants who completed the program requirements, an 18.10% recidivism rate for participants who left before the program ended and a recurrence rate of 23.94% for participants who received a single-time intervention service.

Recidivism rates for inmates in California have averaged about 50% over the past decade, according to a 2019 report from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

This second county grant will be used primarily to expand the Coordinated Access for Empowering Success program to reach an additional 300 people in the county and further reduce recidivism rates.

The program will be led by the Santa Cruz County Probation Department and will include participation from the new Office of the Public Defender, District Attorney’s Office, Santa Cruz Superior Courts and County Behavioral Health.

“The grant will allow Santa Cruz County to help fulfill the constituent mandate to reduce reliance on the criminal justice system to treat people with substance use disorders or behavioral health issues,” said County Probation Chief Fernando Giraldo. “We will expand our early intervention and diversion efforts so that we can address underlying issues and reduce recidivism.”

Seventy-two percent of the grant will be allocated to community organizations that support the Coordinated Access for Empowering Success program, while the remaining funds will be used to provide services to individuals early in the court process, including a new advocacy program early supervised by the Office of the Public Defender.

The results of programs supported and implemented with grants will be independently evaluated.

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