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The Chronicles of Justice
 
April 2015
 
Yolo County District Attorney
 
Newsletter
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From The Desk of the DA

Intelligence-Driven Prosecution

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office has some exciting news for the spring of 2015.  First, our uniquely branded Neighborhood Court (NHC) program was given another boost of credibility and recognition by recently being awarded a $1.9 million federal grant to be disbursed over the next three years to expand our innovative program across the county.  With those grant funds, we have been busy hiring additional staff to help recruit and train community volunteers to handle the ever-increasing caseload. 
 
Even before the successful grant award, our restorative justice-based NHC model was validated as a successful approach when it was adopted by one of the largest public law offices in the country, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, for use in its prosecutions of misdemeanors and infractions in Los Angeles.
 
Our Neighborhood Court Initiative is a type of "Smart on Crime" criminal justice reform that has been promoted by the United States Attorney General over the last several years.  It is also part of a continuing effort by our office to lead the state in the development and implementation of cutting-edge technology and programs that help utilize our scarce resources more effectively and allow us to prioritize prosecutions to focus on the most serious criminal threats to Yolo County residents.
 
In that light, I am excited to announce that, along with the support of my managers, we are implementing a "Smart on Crime" evolution by committing to the development of an Intelligence-Driven Prosecution Program.  This new program will focus on utilizing the amazing digital power of our case management system, LAWSuite, to help us wisely focus our prosecutorial resources on the highest priority offenders and crime hot spots in Yolo County. Our pursuit of this data-driven/smart prosecution program will help us use technology and data to more effectively serve our communities and the entire criminal justice system.

By Jeff Reisig, Yolo County District Attorney
 
Victim Services

"Protecting and Serving Victims of Violent Crime"

The Victim Services Program assists people who are victims of violent crimes. We meet people who are at one of their lowest times in life. A person's life is like a beautiful crystal vase. When a victim's life is impacted by crime it is as if the vase has been shattered into a thousand pieces. Victim Services comes in and assists that person to gather the pieces, put things back together and create a new normal. Although their lives will not look like it was before the crime, we help them reach that new normal in their life. 

During this process we make sure that the victim has a voice in the prosecution. We work as a liaison between law enforcement, service agencies, non-profits, the courts, and other service providers; so that the victim has as many resources available to them that may be needed, to reach that new normalcy.  

Help is available for victims of crime -- the murder of a loved one ... a sexual assault ... the disclosure of a molest. Victim Services staff members cannot take the pain away nor can they bring back a loved one, but they can help victims and their families meet the immediate and long-term needs created by crime in their lives. 

Victim Advocacy is a passion for us because many injustices have been witnessed by our staff which has developed a fire to put a stop to victimization. Crime is around us constantly; within our family, friends, and co-workers. In our lifetimes we have seen and experienced the need for help during the tough times of turmoil in others' lives. Today it could be you and the tomorrow it could be one of us. This is the process of justice. 

The Yolo County Victim Services Program was created out of state legislation enacted in 1981. The program has been in existence since that time and housed in the District Attorney's Office. Dedicated to providing comprehensive services to victims of violent crime, Victim Services Program staff provide information about the criminal justice system and advocates for the rights of victims of violent crime. Some of the services they provide are:
  • Resource counseling and the referral to appropriate agencies.
  • Acting as a liaison between victims and the criminal justice system.
  • Attending court hearings with victims or informing victims about court proceedings, including information about restitution and court protective orders.
  • Assisting victims in preparing and delivering Victim Impact Statements in court at sentencing hearings.
  • Referring victims to 24 hour crisis intervention programs.
  • Assisting qualified victims with applications to the State's Victims of Crime Program through the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
  • Collaborating with other community agencies to provide optimal services to victims of violent crime.
  • Reciprocal training to law enforcement and local service agencies.
  • Advocacy to victims of felony domestic violence cases through a specialized unit in the District Attorney's Office.
  • Referrals to state agencies after a defendant's sentencing to state prison or the California Youth Authority.
By: Laura Valdes, Victim Services Program Manager
 
Neighborhood Court

Restorative Justice

Our Neighborhood Court Program is just the 2nd one started in the state of California. Neighborhood Court seeks to address low level crimes through community-based solutions to swiftly redress the harm caused by these offenses outside of the traditional criminal justice system. Neighborhood Court utilizes restorative justice concepts which identify crime as acts that cause harm done to people and communities. It has been great working in this role in the District Attorney's office and helping the public in this way.

Here is how Neighborhood Court works. Volunteers meet directly with the Offender in a face-to-face facilitated conference. During the conference, volunteers 1) name the harms the community experiences as a result of the crime, 2) ask questions of the Offender to understand the circumstances around the crime, and 3) and decide together with the Offender the steps that are necessary to make the harm right (as much as possible). This face-to-face dialogue is designed to encourage accountability on the part of the Offender and to arrive at the steps necessary to remedy the situation as fully as possible. 

Here is what some of our participants are saying. One offender said, "I really appreciate that a program like Neighborhood Court exists in the community. I think treating cases like mine in this more intimate, reflective manner is much more effective than a full on criminal court." Katie Reilly, a volunteer helping with the program said, "All around, I have been extremely impressed with the program and find that the concept of restorative justice is something that the criminal justice system needs to really invest in to reduce crime." 

Here is what Neighborhood Court does in a nutshell:

Restore Victim
Neighborhood Court is victim centered by placing emphasis on the victim’s needs. It is focused on offenders making things right to the greatest extent possible with their victims. Offenders pay restitution to victims who have suffered monetary losses or property damage.

Restore Community
Neighborhood Court creates an atmosphere of inclusion and responsibility by providing a direct role for residents to oversee the resolution of offenses in their city. When appropriate the offender will complete community service that goes directly to improving conditions in the area impacted by the crime.

Restore Offender
Neighborhood Court offers offenders a second chance by avoiding a criminal conviction on their record upon successful completion of the program. Offenders are also restored by helping them understand the consequence of their actions and by giving them the opportunity to pay back the community they harmed through community service.

Educate Offender
Neighborhood Court educates offenders by helping them understand why they committed the offense which led to their current situation. Offenders can be educated in alcohol use, anger management, and how to be considerate to their community, as well as other topics designed to change or modify their behavior.

For more information on this program email neighborhoodcourt@yolocounty.org or call (530) 681-6323 for additional information.

By Jennifer Davis, Deputy District Attorney

 
Child Abduction Unit

"Protecting and Serving Children and Families"

The Yolo County Child Abduction Unit (CAU) protects and serves children and families and the courts with enforcing child custody and visitation orders and assists in locating/recovering children who have been maliciously taken, detained, or concealed in violation of a parent’s custodial right or in violation of a court order. 

The CAU is only involved when a parent or other family member abducts a child.  If your child or children have been abducted, immediately call the police and the Yolo County CAU if you live in Yolo County at (530) 666-8400.  For additional assistance, you may wish to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. 

When the CAU investigates a case; the unit does so as a representative of the Superior Court and/or the People of the State of California.  The District Attorney does not represent you as an individual. 

The CAU can assist you when your child has been abducted, concealed or detained, or you are experiencing visitation problems.
 
Abduction
An abduction occurs when a child has been moved or taken with the intent of depriving the other parent’s custodial right.  The CAU can begin an investigation whether or not there was an order in place at the time of the abduction.  You may be required to obtain an order during the course of the investigation and prior to the child being recovered.
 
Concealment or Detention
The CAU may be able to assist you if your child is being concealed or detained such that you are having problems seeing your child or enforcing a current court order due to the child’s removal from the court’s jurisdiction or the parent’s habitual denial of your visitation rights.
 
Visitation Problems
If there are chronic violations of an existing court order; i.e., not meeting at the ordered pick-up location, not receiving/returning the child at the ordered times, not allowing phone calls, etc., the CAU may be able to assist you.

Reporting Visitation Violation
The District Attorney’s Office has implemented a self-reporting system to report violations of Yolo County court ordered visitation.  This form is for use by Yolo County residents with court orders issued in Yolo County.  If deemed appropriate, the CAU may take further action once your report is submitted.  The report will be kept on file in our office and may be available only to the court or pursuant to a court order for the records only. 

To make a visitation violation report, please go to:   http://yoloda.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/VisitationCustodyViolationReportForm.pdf.
 
Good Cause
A child may be taken or detained in violation of a parent’s right to custody under the law or in violation of a custody order if there is a good faith and reasonable belief that the child, if left with the other parent or guardian, will suffer immediate bodily injury or emotional harm.  However, if you do take your child under this exception, you MUST call the District Attorney’s Office Child Abduction Unit at 530-666-8400 and follow the instructions you are given.  It is important you know that you must completely follow the CAU instructions or the exception will not apply and you could face criminal child abduction charges.

International Child Abductions
If your child has been abducted internationally, the CAU will assist you. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that has been signed by more than 70 countries to expedite the return of children abducted by a family member to another country.  The Hague application, once completed, is forwarded to the foreign country where the child or children have been located.  This begins a process which eventually concludes in a court hearing in that country to determine if the children should be returned to their country of habitual residence.  The court in the foreign country does not determine rights of custody or visitation. The purpose of the hearing is strictly jurisdictional, which means the court is solely deciding which country the child belongs.
 
If you child has been abducted to a non-Hague country the CAU and Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, can assist you.  For more information, you can visit the Department of State website at: http://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english.html.

Statistics
In 2014, the CAU handled 515 new cases.  During this year, the CAU recovered 23 children and enforced court ordered visitation with 19 children. 

In the first quarter of 2015, the CAU handled 132 new cases.  The CAU has recovered 7 children and enforced court ordered visitation with 5 children thus far.   

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By Tiffany Susz, Deputy District Attorney
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