Goleta diverts low-level offenders from the criminal justice system

Goleta works to keep low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system by devoting resources to what is called restorative justice.

Restorative justice is a tactic used to respond to a crime that involves repairing the harm it causes. Often the victim, the offender and other members of the community find a solution together and avoid the criminal court.

Now, a neighborhood restorative justice program in Goleta will begin doing this kind of work locally.

“Prior to filing a complaint in Superior Court, the person charged with the crime would have the opportunity to participate in the program,” Santa Barbara County Assistant District Attorney John Savrnoch said.

Savrnoch said the county already has a general diversion program. But this new program at Goleta is designed to foster a sense of connection.

“I think it helps them feel like they’re not strangers,” Savrnoch said. “They are part of the community.”

Savrnoch said avoiding court for minor offenses means an offender will not face a criminal conviction for the rest of their life.

“It could impact employment, insurability in some careers,” Savrnoch said.

He said the program will be available to people who commit quality-of-life crimes like vandalism or petty theft. He said crimes involving things like DUIs, firearms or violence are excluded from the program.

Savrnoch said the program takes effort and work. And everyone who participates must admit to the crime for which they would otherwise have been charged. He said the goal is to establish the program in other communities across the county if it is successful.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is currently seeking volunteers for the program. They will receive training in the principles of restorative justice and participate in community meetings to guide participants through the process.

For volunteer needs, click here.