How VISTA fits into Santa Barbara's Vision

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Release Date: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Amanda, a second year VISTA in Santa Barbara, California interviewed S.E. Ballard on how justice, poverty, and VISTA connect in their community. 

I spoke with Chief Trial Deputy S.E. Ballard out of the Santa Barbara Office about how they got hooked on indigent defense and what role they see a VISTA playing in the office now and in the future. Ballard is actively licensed in four states and prior to their current role, they worked out in Juvenile Defense for the County of Santa Barbara and as Chief Trial Deputy in Santa Maria.

S.E. Ballard went to law school with two things in the forefront of their mind: helping others and changing communities. “I believe those two things are the most powerful way to enact change in the system, and what better way to achieve this than working for the indigent in their defense.” They expressed that no one was often interested in helping the poor and vulnerable in many communities, which is why the Public Defender’s Office is an important piece to making change on a bigger scale than just the individual person.

Ballard spoke on the importance of mobilizing the members of the community to help the poor and vulnerable in our communities and how the VISTA and AmeriCorps member have assisted in doing so already. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is a quote that Ballard likened to the work being done in our office, “it is important to help lift the most vulnerable in the community for the entire community to flourish.”

As for having a VISTA in the office, Ballard sees it positively. They see the use in the position by what has already been done through centralizing the resources in the community for easier access to the attorneys and staff alike. “Half the battle is knowing what’s out there, and now that this has been done the process of providing information can be more efficient.” Ballard spoke about how difficult a project like this would have been for anyone else in the office to do, “For a legal office professional or attorney to take even 30 minutes out of their day is a big deal; that is time that could be spent preparing for preliminary or closing out cases.” For that reason, they expressed gratitude for the work of the AmeriCorps member and VISTAs in the office.

One thing Ballard would like to see is more client interaction with the VISTA program, possibly in gathering some data about the treatment programs in the community, or even in the jail. Ballard is excited to see the work remaining through the AmeriCorps VISTA program and has positive expectations for making an impactful change in the office and community through VISTA.