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Imperial County District Attorney’s Office Celebrates Creation of Collaborative Justice Court

-Editorial 

The Imperial County District Attorney’s Office celebrated the ribbon cutting of the Collaborative Justice Court (CJC) program, ushering in a new era of alternatives to traditional incarceration and fostering restorative practices to mitigate recidivism while bolstering public safety.

The CJC is a multifaceted initiative, providing a lifeline to eligible participants through three distinct treatment courts: Veterans Court, Drug Court, and Mental Health Court. Each court is meticulously designed to address the unique needs of individuals grappling with specific challenges that contribute to criminal behavior.

The Imperial County District Attorney’s office seeks to serve as a model for the successful implementation of collaborative courts in rural counties. 

Collaborative courts will require “collaboration” with other stakeholder agencies to help identify problems that lead an individual to commit crimes and pave a path toward rehabilitation. Getting different opinions and angles is key to the success of this program, District Attorney George Marquez said during his remarks. 

“Let me tell you what collaborative courts are not. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It isn’t allowing people off the hook for committing crimes. No, it is quite the opposite. It’s holding non-dangerous criminals accountable,” Marquez said. “But holding them accountable in a smart way based on evidence-based practices and procedures that have been tried and tested to work.”

While aggressively prosecuting criminals who pose a threat to the community, the CJC focuses on addressing underlying issues like mental health, drug addiction, and PTSD for eligible participants. With a remarkable 58% reduction in recidivism among participants, this evidence-backed initiative not only enhances public safety but also saves tax dollars. Originating from a personal belief in the program’s potential, the DA highlights the importance of willpower in successful reintegration, emphasizing the positive impact on individuals who may otherwise fall through the cracks. The CJC represents a smart and compassionate strategy, ensuring tough yet intelligent measures to decrease crime, save tax dollars, and restore dignity to individuals in the community. As the program takes root, there is confidence in significant benefits for the community and a commitment to fostering successful reintegration. 

“I believe that a healthy criminal justice system must be fair and balanced. One of my main objectives as District Attorney is to safeguard that balance of justice and to promote it when possible and to make sure it’s always present in our community,” the DA stated. “During the last year, my office has taken a tough stand on crime, such as zero tolerance for fentanyl sales, placing prosecutors in police stations, and Gun Violence Reduction Initiative. We have close to double the number of attorneys.” 

Deputy District Attorneys Belen Granados and Kia Harris played a key role in the implementation of this program. 

“This is an opportunity for people who are eligible to be given a chance to go through a heavily supervised probation that is really about treating the person, holding their hand through the process in a more humanistic approach,” Harris said. “Ultimately the goal is for them to be reintegrated to society successfully and have a minimum criminal record so they can be hired, make money, and be part of the community.” 

When it comes to veterans court, each veteran will be paired up with a mentor from Reps4Vets, a local organization, that will be assisting with the mentorship aspect at Veterans Court, DDA Granados said. 

Imperial County Superior Court Judge Marco Nunez said to be delighted to endorse this initiative to expand their current collaborative Mental Health Court, representing a crucial step in providing enhanced services to veterans and individuals grappling with severe drug addiction.

“I am genuinely pleased that we can now offer these essential services to our community. Our primary objective is to address the root causes of crime and reduce its occurrence, recognizing that every collaborative court initiative requires dedicated champions on both the advocacy and judicial fronts,” Judge Nunez said. “The District Attorney’s Office has diligently established a robust system, coordinating various stakeholders and service providers to meet the unique needs of these collaborative courts. Additionally, Behavioral Health Services, Social Services, Probation, and Law Enforcement are fully supportive of this team approach.” 

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