The Collaborative Courts Division, led by Deputy District Attorney Rachel Solov, was created in response to the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Act – also known as AB 109. AB 109 shifted the supervision, housing and treatment of felony offenders from the state to the county. This created a new population of high-risk, high-needs offenders who require a change in how they are sentenced and released into the community. This unit advocates for the best solutions to protect public safety while transitioning offenders back into society with appropriate treatment and supervision to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. This division provides training on all legal aspects of AB 109 and evidence-based practices and it represents the District Attorney’s Office on the Behavioral Health Court, Central and East County Drug Courts, Reentry Court, Veteran’s Treatment Court, Homeless Court, and Veterans Stand Down. Each of these courts is staffed by a regularly assigned Deputy District Attorney who specializes in the intricacies of that particular court. The Collaborative Courts Division also staffs the multi-disciplinary team meeting for the recently developed Vista Detention Center’s Veterans Housing Module, and provides a link between the team and the court process.
Drug Court is a special court that hears selected cases involving non-violent offenders who are charged with using drugs. It saves taxpayer dollars, reduces recidivism, and it helps get people’s lives back on track. Part of Drug Court’s success is its frequent random drug testing, judicial supervision, drug treatment counseling, educational and vocational training opportunities. Participation in the program has been affected by Proposition 47, which made certain felonies – such as drug possession – a misdemeanor. However, in spite of that challenge, the program continues to be an important option for holding defendants accountable and getting them the help they need to address substance abuse problems. A total of 127 defendants graduated from Drug Court across the county in 2016.
Reentry Court Program
The number of participants in Reentry Court steadily increased to a high of 53 participants in 2016. As with Drug Court, the program lost participants due to Proposition 47. The profile of accepted clients expanded to include defendants with more serious criminal records and co-occurring disorders. There has also been an expansion to accept defendants on mandatory supervision and parole revocations. Four participants graduated from Reentry Court in 2016.
Homeless Court/Stand Down
Homeless Court continues to operate efficiently and effectively on a monthly basis at St. Vincent DePaul Village or Veterans Village of San Diego. On average, nearly 200 cases are addressed in Homeless Court each month. Collaborative Courts also participated in Stand Down, an annual summer event. Stand Down is an innovative program that helps local homeless veterans get off the streets and back on track. The District Attorney’s Office worked with the Public Defender’s Office to resolve minor outstanding criminal matters of over 150 Veterans. In 2017, we will participate in a second Stand Down for North County to address justice issues facing homeless veterans from State Route 56 to the county border with Riverside.
Veterans Treatment Court
This cutting-edge, collaborative justice project is designed to assist veterans who commit crime as a result of mental illness or substance abuse related to their military service. Treatment providers from the military community join with the Superior Court, Probation Department, defense attorneys, and District Attorney’s Office to create customized rehabilitative plans for each veteran. The program strives to reintegrate veterans into law-abiding society. Each year, participation in the program increases. In 2016, the Veterans Treatment Court saw its highest level of participants since the program started in 2011. A record seventeen veterans successfully graduated from the program in 2016, which typically lasts from 18 to 36 months. In addition, 14 veterans had their cases expunged and rights restored as a result of their participation and rehabilitation.
Behavioral Health Court
Behavioral Health Court aims to provide services to defendants who are suffering from serious mental illness. In 2016, the funding for this program increased, which doubled participation from 30 to 60. Participants in this court are supervised intensively to insure a safe transition into the community where they are provided stable housing, counseling/psychiatric care, and medication when warranted.
Post Release Community Supervision
Collaborative Courts is also responsible for handling all post release community supervision revocation matters. It acts as the office wide liaison to the Probation Department’s Post Release Offender Unit. The post release calendar sees about 50 to 60 offenders per week.
Similar to the Post Release Community Supervision program, the Collaborative Courts Division is responsible for handling all parole revocations in San Diego County. As a result of AB 109, parole revocation hearings were transferred from the state level to the local courts in July 2013. In response, we assigned a Deputy District Attorney to learn this complex area of law and handle all parole revocation matters. This DDA is also the liaison between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Department of Adult Parole and our office.
A Collaborative Courts Deputy District Attorney continues to staff San Diego’s Mandatory Supervision Court, which leads the state in creatively and effectively supervising, treating and stopping the revolving door of recidivist offenders who receive split sentences. There are about 650 participants in the program. The increase in the number of offenders on mandatory supervision has led to the addition of a second weekly court calendar. Participants are brought to court about four weeks before their release from custody to review the terms of supervision which are guided by their assessment and case plan (i.e., residential/outpatient treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, job training, mental and physical health, etc.). Upon release, they will reside in a home that has been pre-approved by probation or they will live in a residence provided by a treatment program or sober living facility. Participants must submit to random drug testing, meet with mental and physical health professionals and take prescribed medication if necessary. They meet regularly with their probation officers, must successfully complete programs they’re enrolled in, and attend follow-up court dates to provide the court with information on how they are progressing in their treatment plans. If they are in violation of the terms of their mandatory supervision, then they will be arrested and placed back into custody. They will then be brought back before the court where a decision will be made on whether they should be given another chance to be supervised in the community or return to custody for the remainder of their sentence.
California voters passed Proposition 47 in November 2014, which enacted the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. It makes non-serious, non-violent crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies including petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for specified violent or serious crimes. In addition, the law authorizes consideration of resentencing for anyone who is currently serving a sentence and reclassification as a misdemeanor for qualifying offenses. The Collaborative Courts Division worked with justice partners and the IT Department to prepare for the new law. We are responsible for reviewing petitions for eligibility, resentencing eligible offenders, conducting dangerousness hearings and litigating legal issues created by the law. In 2016 we processed over 5,000 petitions and resentenced approximately 3,500 cases.
In November of 2016, California Voters passed Proposition 64, which enacted the Marijuana Legalization Initiative Statute. Proposition 64 legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. The new law changed the penalty for marijuana offenses involving juveniles, and made cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana not involving crossing state lines a misdemeanor unless the defendant has certain designated prior convictions. In addition, the law authorizes consideration of resentencing for anyone who is currently serving a sentence and reclassification as a misdemeanor for qualifying offenses. The District Attorney’s Office worked with justice partners and the IT Department to prepare for the new law. The Collaborative Courts Division is responsible for reviewing petitions for eligibility, resentencing eligible offenders, conducting dangerousness hearings and litigating some of the legal issues created by Proposition 64. In 2016 the unit processed 255 petitions and resentenced 215 cases.