After 30 years of service to the Santa Barbara County Probation Department, Chief Probation Officer Patti Stewart notified the Superior Court and the Board of Supervisors in October that she will retire from her post in late December.
Stewart is a lifelong county resident. Raised in Guadalupe, she attended local schools, graduated from UCSB in 1981 with highest honors, and is proud to note that she entered the department as a student volunteer.
Stewart was hired as a deputy probation officer in October 1982 and has served in all operational divisions of the department as she worked her way up through the ranks. She has received numerous awards and commendations but is particularly proud of receiving the H. Thomas Guerry Award for Outstanding Performance, being selected as a Community Hero by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and Cox Cable, and receiving recognition as a Distinguished Alumni of Guadalupe Union School.
In 1993 she was chosen to supervise an armed intensive supervision unit, and in 1996 worked in the grant-funded Multi-Agency System of Care. As the first female appointed to the role, she directed operations of the Los Prietos Boys Camp for more than eight years and oversaw the building and implementation of the former Tri Counties Boot Camp and the development of the Los Prietos Boys Academy. In 2004, she was promoted to the rank of deputy chief over probation institutions (Juvenile halls and camps).
After a statewide recruitment, in May 2007, Stewart was appointed by the Superior Court and has remained fully committed to data-driven decision-making and evidence-based strategies. In January 2011, she accepted the nomination as the Southern Region Chair of the Chief Probation Officers of California, and also served on the executive committee of the organization.
Locally she chairs the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council and the Community Corrections Partnership. She also serves as a First 5 children’s and family commissioner for Santa Barbara County, and sits on the executive committees of the County Law Enforcement Chiefs, Kids Network, Santa Barbara Fighting Back and the Collaborative Courts Policy Council.
Stewart’s appointment in 2007 was followed by multiple years of a recessed economy and fiscal challenge that included more than $7 million in collective reductions to probation that resulted in the repurposing of the Santa Barbara Juvenile Hall to a booking station and later to a receiving and transportation center. The Counseling and Education Centers were closed, and other multiagency services discontinued.
However, with the support of dedicated staff, viable alternatives were developed and the Probation Department was reorganized and efficiencies enhanced. With a five-year cumulative 20 percent reduction of department personnel, probation was undaunted and able to redirect resources and achieve grant funds to implement new, innovative, and evidence-based strategies and programs.
During Stewart’s tenure, Juvenile Alternative Detention programs have been opened in north and south county sites, work was externalized to clients through the utilization of kiosk reporting, an automated evidence-based risk assessment for adult offenders has been fully implemented, and a similar juvenile risk, needs and assets assessment was revalidated. With a combination of redirected resources and grant funds, Adult Probation Report and Resource Centers in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara were opened, a $1 million competitive federal grant was achieved to provide, and later supported the replication of, a countywide Targeted Gang Intervention program, and other grants were awarded to expand services and enhance electronic supervision using GPS technology for the highest risk gang members, sex offenders, domestic violence cases, and convicted drunken drivers under supervision of the Probation Department.
A vocational print shop project is also under way for implementation this month using trust funds and made possible by the collaboration of county General Services and with the support of Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf.
It was also Stewart’s responsibility to coordinate and chair the Community Corrections Partnership, a statutorily required collective of local community justice and human services leaders who developed a strategic and balanced Board of Supervisors-approved plan to implement the requirements of Assembly Bills AB109/117, which realigned the detention, supervision and treatment of certain criminal offenders from the jurisdiction of the state to the counties. The Criminal Justice Realignment Implementation Plan, the Juvenile Justice Local Action Plan, a department-wide Business Process Improvement Project and an updated Five-year Probation Department Strategic Plan will serve as a road map for future department operations and facilitate a smooth transition of command.
Stewart’s retirement will be effective Dec. 22, and she intends to become a more active resident of the Santa Ynez Valley community, tend to her 11-year-old twins, and render added support to her parents who are Santa Barbara residents, and leave the department as she entered — with a spirit of volunteerism and public service that she will foster by applying for a community member post on the First Five Commission, and by being available as a consultant in the field of probation. The Superior Court, which is the appointing authority for the chief probation officer, will announce the selection of the successor chief in the coming weeks.
— Heather Bennett is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Probation Department.