Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

The county is seeking volunteers to work as panelists and facilitators for Goleta Valley’s Neighborhood Restorative Justice program — a new initiative announced by District Attorney Joyce Dudley and the 2nd District Supervisor’s Office that could keep low-level misdemeanor offenders out of the system by diverting them to the program in lieu of filing charges.

Under the new program, those picked up for low-level crimes will be given an opportunity to take responsibility and repair some of the harm they caused by participating in “restorative justice proceedings,” which are described as similar to conferences. 

Volunteers for this community-driven effort will be able to participate as panelists in these proceedings, which are intended as an alternative to court proceedings, and are part of a larger county and statewide push for detention alternatives.

The Neighborhood Restorative Justice Program, according to the District Attorney’s Office, will address criminal violations that “impact the quality of life in the community.”

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Volunteer facilitators will be trained to lead the conferences, and guide offenders through a step-by-step process that is aimed to be supportive and geared toward “representing the community’s needs, interests, and perspectives concerning the crime committed.”

In order to apply as a facilitator or panelist, volunteers should work or live in the Goleta Valley, and must complete a fingerprinting and criminal record check. Volunteers must have no recent felonies or misdemeanors, but immigration status is not relevant and will not be checked. It is recommended that volunteers have lived in the Goleta area for three years and commit to volunteer for at least two years; students can apply after living in Goleta one year and can also request a one-year commitment.

Applicants can find out more info on the Neighborhood Restorative Justice website.

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