By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
SJC gets $5M for restorative justice visions
Toni Verber Salazar

San Joaquin County could soon be on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform thanks to a budget allocation from the State of California that will allow for a transformative pilot program that could drastically change the way that justice is administered in the county.

On Tuesday the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office announced a $5 million allocation from the state that will further its look into restorative justice practices as a way of cutting down on recidivism rates while at the same time guaranteeing that those impacted by crime have a hand in the way in which the cases are resolved.

“Just because we’ve done something one way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s the best

approach for victims of crime and our community’s safety,” Verber Salazar said in a statement announcing the available funding for the program. “We have to be willing to learn from our past in order to grow and build a better future. 

“These modern approaches save precious taxpayer resources, and they’ve been shown to enhance safety and the experience victims have when they come into contact with our system of justice.”

The funding will be used to add components to the Project Navigate Constructive Change initiative that provides intensive, evidence-based programming, mentoring, and monitoring to reduce the likelihood that offenders repeat the same behavior and end back into the criminal justice system – a program possible through a joint partnership between the DA’s office, the public defender’s office, the San Joaquin County Probation Department, and Behavioral Health Services.

Of those that have passed the screening necessary to be accepted into the program – which requires willingness on behalf of the offender and the desire to complete the program fully – approximately 73 percent have completed the steps necessary to graduate.

“We are excited to continue and expand the services being provided by PNCC. This program embodies the mission and goals of the Probation Department in supporting victims, reducing recidivism through client accountability, and inspiring change,” San Joaquin County Chief Probation Officer Steve Jackson said. “I believe our team’s approach to supervising PNCC clients will have a positive impact in identifying a path to productive life choices.”

Through the joint agreement between the stakeholders in the PNCC program, those participating will be closely monitored for their progress and those that fail to meet the benchmarks will be returned to the traditional court channels for full prosecution for their respective crimes.

Over the last several months, Verber Salazar has emerged as a progressive voice for criminal justice reform in the traditionally Conservative Central Valley and has partnered with prosecutors from more liberal areas to advance what she sees as just and equitable changes to a system that had become overburdened and somewhat ineffective at rehabilitating offenders. From asking prosecutors not to seek additional court costs in cases to pledging not to accept campaign donations or endorsement from law enforcement unions that may come before her office for review, Verber Salazar has attracted attention for her approaches towards reform.

In a statement announcing the allocation of recent funding for the restorative justice program, her office said that defendants can still be held “accountable through understanding and

accepting responsibility for the harm caused and ordering restitution for any economic


Verber Salazar assumed her role in 2015 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2018. Her position will be on the ballot in 2022.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.