Volunteer Applications Open May 1, 2024 - July 19, 2024

Online Application | NHC Volunteer Application 2024 - Printable


Neighborhood Courts

Community-driven restorative justice, an alternative to criminal court.

Promoting innovative solutions to low level crime by resolving cases with the help of community volunteers. A division of the District Attorney



The Neighborhood Courts program is a community driven, pre-filing diversion program designed to divert low level misdemeanor offenses from entering the criminal justice system.

First time offenders are given an opportunity to take responsibility and repair the harm they caused through a community-based process using restorative justice principles instead of a courtroom.

The Neighborhood Courts program addresses criminal violations that impact the quality of life in the community and provides an alternative to entering into criminal court.

The purpose of the program is to: reduce recidivism by understanding why people offend, address the harm the offense had on the victim (if applicable) and the community and, using restorative principles rather than punitive principles, effectively and efficiently restore the local community, victim and offender back into community.


Eligible cases are diverted by the District Attorney’s Office into the Neighborhood Courts program. While participation is voluntary and confidential, participants (the offenders) must be willing to take responsibility for their actions that caused harm. Victims are invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Trained community volunteers will become panelists and meet with the participant and victim (if applicable) in a relaxed, confidential space, in what is called a conference. During the Conference, volunteer panelists and the participant discuss:

  • Harms caused to victim (if applicable) and community
  • Root of why the crime happened
  • Panelists and participant work together on a list of agreements that lead to restorative accountability goals that are specific, reasonable, attainable, and restorative to the participant, victim, and community.
  • Once the participant successfully completes the agreement, the case will be dismissed. The participant is given a second chance because the conviction will not be on their record. If needed, the participants may be referred to additional services offered in the community. If a case is not resolved in Neighborhood Courts, it will be re-routed back to the District Attorney’s Office.


Are you interested in being a part of Neighborhood Courts?
Join our volunteer team! Neighborhood Courts volunteers are essential to the success of the program. Our volunteers serve as panelists. They are community members trained in restorative justice, cultural competency, effective communication, facilitation, and problem solving skills. The District Attorney’s Office strives to create a diverse group of volunteer panelists throughout the County of Santa Cruz who are from different diverse socioeconomic, cultural, gender, age, and professional backgrounds.

Requirements to become a volunteer panelist:

  • Complete the application (coming soon)
  • Pass a background check (Immigrant status will not be checked)
  • Two-year time commitment (1 year if student)
  • Attend 17+ hours of Panelist Training (training dates and times to be announced)

Commitment as a volunteer panelist:

  • Attend monthly volunteer meeting (Currently held on the last Thursday of the month from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.)
  • Participate as an observer in a minimum of two Neighborhood Court Conferences
  • Participate as a panelist in Neighborhood Court conferences approximately once every 2 months
  • Participate in at least 4 of 8 additional trainings a year

** Volunteer panelists monthly time commitment is between 2-3 hrs. a month**

Training Dates (Locations TBD) 
Monday October 21, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday October 23, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. 
Monday October 28, 2024  - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Saturday November 2, 2024 - 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Monday November 4, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Want to apply? 

Application Period - May 1, 2024 - July 19, 2024

If you want to apply, please use the links below. If you print an application, you can mail or drop off a completed application at the District Attorney's Office, located at 701 Ocean Street Room 200 Santa Cruz CA 95060. 

Click here for printable application | Click here to apply online


“I really felt heard and I had not expressed all the layers of what happened and I liked the way the panelist opened questions in a non judgmental fashion. I had wanted to share my story because there were so many layers to unpack and I really appreciated the feelings I had when it was over. I think the program and the conference space is such an asset to the community and I’m thankful for the program. I hope it grows and gets more employees on the team because it does feel restorative”  

“I like that the panelists made me feel like this is a welcoming safe space to not be judged, but to see where we could repair the incident and prevent it from happening again and all from a very human approach which felt nice. Thank you guys for everything you do, I can't thank you guys enough for seeing the good in people”

“The feedback and questions from the panel expanded my perspective and I had to think in ways I had not entirely explored previously. Specifically the responses from the members created an opportunity to think about the impact on different members and gave me a more open heart”


If you are selected to be a panelist, all of the the 2024 training dates will be mandatory.

Training Dates (Locations TBD) 
Monday October 21, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday October 23, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. 
Monday October 28, 2024  - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Saturday November 2, 2024 - 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Monday November 4, 2024 - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Want to apply? 

Application Period - May 1, 2024 - July 19, 2024


Thank you to our local Law Enforcement and Judicial Officers throughout Santa Cruz County. Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County Adult Probation, and other local Community Board Organizations.




For questions about Neighborhood Courts, please email neighborhoodcourts@santacruzcountyca.gov