1. What is Neighborhood Court?
Neighborhood Court is an alternative to the traditional Criminal Justice system. Instead of prosecuting certain cases in traditional criminal court through the judicial system, the District Attorney’s Office refers appropriate, low- level misdemeanor and infraction cases to Neighborhood Court. At Neighborhood Court, Panelists, who are residents that live and work in the community where the incident occurred, hear the cases in a “Conference”. A trained Facilitator manages this Conference, and there are no judges, defense attorneys, or prosecutors in attendance. Conferences are currently held at a neutral community location within Shasta County, where the Panelists use restorative justice principles to problem-solve and address any harm caused to the community by the crime. All Neighborhood Court Conferences are voluntary and confidential.
2. How do cases get referred to Neighborhood Court?
There are three (3) ways to get referred:
1) After the arrest, and prior to a criminal complaint being filed, the District Attorney reviews the police report, makes a determination of eligibility, and then meets with the offender to offer Neighborhood Court as an option. The District Attorney will provide the offender with an information card instructing the participant to contact HOPE City to request a Neighborhood Court diversion program. Neighborhood Court is a voluntary program designed to repair any harm caused to the victim or community by the crime. If participants decline to participate, or would like to dispute the incident in question, or do not make contact, the case will proceed to the traditional criminal court system.
2) As part of the terms of probation, an offender may request their Probation Officer to refer them to HOPE City to work towards repairing harm caused by their behavior. The Probation Officer will notify HOPE City of the referral and the HOPE City team will meet with the participants. All participation is voluntary.
3) As a community member desiring to repair any harms you feel responsible for, you may simply call or walk in to make arrangements with the HOPE City team to make preparations for arranging a Conference.
3. What is a Neighborhood Court Facilitator?
The Facilitator is a neutral third-party volunteer mediator with training in the principles of Restorative Justice. The primary role of the Facilitator is to insure the process is safe for all participants in the Conference. This is accomplished through agreed-upon and enforced ground rules for the Conference setting. The Facilitator then facilitates the Conference between the Panelists, the Participant, and the Victim (should the Victim choose to participate) to enable the parties in a face-to-face setting, to identify the harms caused by the offense and develop a mutual agreement to repair the harm as much as possible.
4. What can a Participant expect when going to Neighborhood Court?
After the referral from the District Attorney or Probation Officer, and prior to the Neighborhood Court Conference, Participants will meet with the Facilitator, who will manage their Conference. At the Conference, panels of three to four volunteer community members will meet together, read through the police report and listen to the participant share about the incident. The goal of the Conference is for the Panel and the Participant to reach a mutual agreement to repair the harm caused by the Participant’s behavior. The agreement can include, but is not limited to: community service, restitution, a letter of apology, an educational project, and/or a suitable treatment program. To be successful in Neighborhood Court, and get the case closed, Participants must fulfill the terms of the agreement.
5. Do I need to go to Criminal Court too?
If you were referred by the District Attorney in a pre-file manner, attend Neighborhood Court and complete the terms of the agreement, you do not need to go to Criminal Court. Neighborhood Court is an opportunity to resolve your case without going to Criminal Court. If you successfully complete Neighborhood Court, you will not be charged with a crime and you will not have a criminal conviction on your record. You cannot be sent to jail or fined in Neighborhood Court, if this was your agreement with the District Attorney.