Pixel Tracker

Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 2:36 pm | Mostly Cloudy 62º


Santa Barbara County Detention Facilities Get Grand Jury Seal of Approval

Despite fewer resources and more inmates, new report credits Sheriff's Department advances

Santa Barbara County’s detention facilities are getting by with fewer resources but the county Grand Jury reported that facilities are still well-managed.

The overcrowding in all Sheriff’s Department facilities wasn’t examined with great detail as in years past, but it’s still a problem, according to a report the Grand Jury released last week. Click here for a copy of the Grand Jury’s report.

The county’s attempt to pay for its share of a new Santa Maria jail through a half-cent sales tax was shot down by voters last November. It’s unclear if the county will be able to come up with the money needed to receive $56 million in state matching funds. Since the failure of Measure S, there hasn’t been any formal discussion of alternatives.

A 2005 New Jail Planning Study catalogued funding alternatives and found most of them lacking for a project of this magnitude. Among the ideas dismissed, primarily because they wouldn’t cover ongoing operating costs or couldn’t be implemented quickly enough, were pay-as-you-go, a savings account, general obligation bonds, certificates of participation, sale of county property and oil development. The last option — a sales tax — was called “the most viable and timely option.”

The Main Jail, 4436 Calle Real, has released 18,000 inmates early since 1999 because of overcrowding, Sheriff Bill Brown told the Santa Barbara City Council last year. A thousand of those early releases were rearrested in the time they should have still been in custody, he said.

The inmate population has changed over the years, too. Currently, 81 percent of the inmates are pre-trial suspects and 78 percent are felony suspects — both large increases from 2000. It costs about $26,000 to house an inmate for a year.

Sheriff’s Department facilities include the Main Jail, the Medium Security Facility, the Santa Maria Branch Jail and small holding stations throughout the county.

Recidivism rates are around 70 percent — meaning 70 percent of inmates will commit new crimes — but the Sheriff’s Treatment Program for drug and alcohol abuse has cut that in half for its graduates. For 12 years, Supervisor Chuck McClain has overseen the counseling, programming and separate housing blocks for the men and women who either volunteer or are court-mandated to participate in the program.

Grand Jury reports from the past few years call the Probation Department’s juvenile facilities the most praiseworthy, especially Los Prietos Boys Camp & Academy. The condition and management is “superior,” the Grand Jury noted, and the increasing number of high school diplomas given out to the camp’s Los Robles High School students is admirable.

Boys sent to the camp off Paradise Road are serving four- to six-month sentences and follow a demanding schedule of class, vocational training, work, meals, exercise, community service and counseling from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The high school is operated by the county Education Office and is located within the camp’s fences.

Most of the boys are at least a year behind on school credits and graduation rates have risen to a steady 20 per year from about four, in part because more computers are available for the students, Fred Razo, juvenile court and community schools administrator for the county Education Office, has told Noozhawk.

The Probation Department also manages Santa Barbara’s Juvenile Hall, which is now used for booking and holding people for court appearances, and the Susan J Gionfriddo Juvenile Justice Center in Santa Maria.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >