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Friday, April 19, 2024

Yolo County district attorney’s restorative justice partnership to receive 2.1 million grant

Grant funds will go toward maintaining the existing Restorative Justice Partnership, developing two new positions

 

By MADELEINE YOUNG city@theaggie.org

 

Last month, the California Board of Community Corrections approved a grant of $2,145,000 over the course of three years that will go toward the Yolo County District Attorney’s Restorative Justice Partnership (RJP).

Nicole Kirkaldy is the director of Yolo County’s Restorative Justice and Diversion Partnership and manages the program. She spoke about where the District Attorney’s office will allocate the grant funds.

“This grant will maintain the existing RJP by funding a paralegal, legal process clerk, social services assistant and social worker practitioner, along with a modest allotment for equipment, supplies, and training,” Kirkaldy said. “The new grant replaces RJP’s outreach specialist and a second legal process clerk, funded by the prior grant, with a behavioral health case manager and a second social services assistant. The two new positions will allow RJP to provide clients with mental health and/or substance use needs additional support in the areas of mental health services and connections to social/behavioral/physical/health services.”

This grant amount awarded to Yolo County ranked #1 out of 10 mid-sized counties competing for funding. Kirkaldy said that the RJP, and many other innovative and collaborative programs that they work closely with, rely on grant funding. 

“Like RJP, the majority of these programs rely on grant funding for their staffing and operations,” Kirkaldy said. “This can present a unique challenge to program development and sustainability. When funding opportunities arise, we work incredibly hard to pursue the resources needed to allow our programs to continue. The grant process took long hours and countless meetings, but we knew success was the only thing that would enable us to continue RJP’s work. The BSCC uses scoring panels to rate and rank JAG proposals based on specific criteria and scoring matrices. Scoring panel members bring their own professional expertise to bear in reviewing proposals”.

Kirkaldy also said that much of the funding will be put toward mental health services, which require staffing.
“ RJP-CM currently has only one social worker practitioner and one social services assistant assigned to support these clients,” Kirkaldy said. “Their caseload is constantly growing, often in excess of 100 individuals, and includes a population that can require a very high level of support. Doubling our staffing for this program area will allow for a reduction in caseload per staff and an increase in time spent per client which we believe will result in improved success in connecting clients to services and a better ability to track/monitor ongoing engagement.” 

The Yolo County DA’s office also plans to use these funds to help RJP reach individuals who haven’t been able to get the support they needed in the past. 

“Many are unable to access the benefits of diversion due to their inability to engage with or complete program requirements due to their struggles with mental health, substance abuse and socioeconomic issues,” Kirkaldy said. “By creating supported pathways to successful completion with the help of staff whose focus is on stabilizing and improving performance in those specific areas, these grants go a long way to reducing some of the historical barriers to successful community reintegration and recidivism avoidance for system-impacted individuals.”

The RJP project has been demonstrated to prevent recidivism. An independent evaluation in 2017 found that RJP graduates were 37% less likely to recidivate and only 5.9% of the program participants were rearrested within one year of completing the program, according to the District Attorney’s press release on the grants. The new funds will allow for the program to not only continue, but to improve moving forward. 

“It was a great honor for Yolo [County]’s proposal to be ranked so highly amongst our peers, and reflects the years of work, critical thought, reflective analysis and data-driven decision-making that have informed this program’s growth and development in its nearly 10 years of operation,” Kirkaldy said.

 

Written By: Madeleine Young city@theaggie.org