The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors listened to Sheriff Bill Brown present details Tuesday on a program that could prevent recently released inmates from returning to jail.

According to the plan, two state-funded, day-reporting centers for parolees would be established in the Santa Maria and Santa Barbara areas, and would provide programming such as substance abuse treatment, anger management, education and job skills as a means to re-enter society.

Each year, 300 returning offenders would enroll in the program, which the state has said it will fund — at no cost to the county.

“In essence, this would be sort of a one-stop shop of services,” Brown said of the program, which also would provide oversight for recently released offenders. “Historically, 70 percent of that population is going to reoffend and going to be back in prison within three years of their release.”

It would teach things such as balancing a checkbook or controlling anger, “things you and I might take for granted, but that this population isn’t ready to do,” Brown said.

Most criminals who are sent to prison are released at some point and return to their communities, he said, and the program wouldn’t increase those numbers.

The day-center concept was recommended by the National Institute of Corrections when it issued an assessment of the local jail system in 2006.

Overcrowding and early release of parolees remain issues at the jail, and more than 20 grand jury reports have reiterated the need for a new jail, according to county staff reports. Brown said the day center is the logical next step that reduces the need for additional jail construction.

The centers would be operated by a private vendor or a nonprofit organization with oversight from the sheriff.

The supervisors approved the presentation 3-0, with Supervisors Joni Gray and Janet Wolf absent. Gray had a scheduling conflict, and Wolf was tending to family business after the death of her mother over the weekend.

Many of the programs the prisons have historically used have been slashed by budget cuts. Brown said the Sheriff’s Department currently finds parolees less prepared than in previous years because of those cuts.

Released inmates are given $200 to travel home, and not much else.

“Even if they have the best of intentions, many times they face difficulty finding proper housing and jobs,” Brown said, and they’re competing with people without criminal records in a tough job market.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has said it will fund the effort and not require any money from the county.

But the mention of state funding caused concern on the dais, particularly for Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

“The state continues to be in a state of chaos,” he said. “I’d hate for us to get all dressed up and not have any place to go.”

Despite his concern, Carbajal called the program outstanding. “At the end of the day, I think that’s going to be a very good thing for our community,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Department expects to be back before the board next month with concepts for the project.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

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