State awards $7M to local justice programs

Santa Cruz County was awarded $7 million in two new grants that will aid criminal justice diversion programs, including drug and alcohol treatment, and reduce youth racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

A $6 million grant will fund the Coordinated Access for Empowering Success (CAFES) project and the remainder will go toward the Community Reclaiming Youth Justice program in South County.

CAFES will increase the integration of criminal and specialty courts with community services to help divert lower-level offenders from overcrowded jails and prisons by addressing root causes of crime.

CAFES will locate case workers within local courts to better connect individuals to services through the Santa Cruz County Probation Department's Service Center, creating additional pathways out of the justice system. CAFES also provides funding to study establishing a new neighborhood court program based on a San Francisco model with demonstrated success as a diversion tool and a high level of community involvement.

"CAFES will work toward three significant shifts in our local justice system," Santa Cruz County Probation Chief Fernando Giraldo said. "First is a shift from distributed services to a cohesive system with services delivered through a central hub. Second is a shift from reaction to prevention, including looking at root causes through a public health lens. The third shift is expanding the criminal justice focus to include overall community health and well-being."

Within Santa Cruz County, data shows 60 percent of all jail bookings being drug- or alcohol-related and 50 percent of those exiting the justice system lacking access to stable housing. CAFES will provide treatment, case management and housing support through multiple organizations.

The Community Reclaiming Youth Justice aims to divert disadvantaged Latino youth from the justice system and reducing youth justice racial disparities. The program will serve youth and their families to address factors leading to contact with police and the courts.

"Through evidence-based practices including youth leadership development, addressing past traumas and improving school performance and social competencies, our goal is to provide a framework for these youth to grow and mature without being pulled into the system," Santa Cruz County Probation Chief Fernando Giraldo said.

For the Community Reclaiming Youth Justice program, the County will partner with Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance, with referrals from local police agencies, schools and the community. An oversight committee will be established including local criminal justice partners, organizations and the community, and a robust data collection and evaluation program will be included.

Funding for both programs was provided by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). CAFES is being funded through the Proposition 47 grant program, which directs 65 percent of the overall state savings from Proposition 47 to the BSCC to fund mental health and substance-use disorder treatment, housing assistance and job training.

In this round of funding, 43 applicants sought $193 million in funding, with the BSCC awarding approximately half that amount.

The Community Reclaiming Youth Justice program is funded through the BSCC's Youth Reinvestment Grant program, which allocates $37.3 million for underserved communities with high rates of juvenile arrests and high rates of racial/ethnic criminal justice disparities.

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