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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 6:28 pm | Fair 55º


Sheriff’s, Probation Officials Hoping Jail Population Will Level Off

Effects of state realignment are still being felt in Santa Barbara County

Ten months after California’s public-safety realignment was implemented, Santa Barbara County is still seeing a larger impact than expected, but leaders said Tuesday they hope the influx of parolees and early releases will plateau soon.

Probation Chief Beverly Taylor and Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Don Patterson gave their third quarterly report to the county Board of Supervisors on Assembly Bill 109, the realignment bill aimed at reducing overcrowding and costs in state prisons.

More convicted criminals can now serve their sentences in county jails rather than prisons, even if they’re longer than one year.

The county has long had an issue with jail overcrowding, and then AB 109 hit, Patterson said. Between the first six months of 2011, when numbers were improving, and the first six months of this year, once realignment was implemented, there has been an increase in average daily population, participants in the electronic monitoring program and early releases.

In June this year, 158 percent of the planned AB 109 jail slots for sentencing were used.

There’s also been a 40-percent increase in the number of people sentenced to County Jail under AB 109, Patterson said.

Many longer-term sentences are for criminals with “NX3” offenses: non-violent, non-serious and non-high-risk sexual offenses. Now, the jail staff has to deal with these longer-term inmates, instead of the year-or-less sentences for which the facility was designed.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation projected that AB 109 would need 145 beds in Santa Barbara County, but statistics show that the county is well above that, Patterson said.

“The good news is, it’s leveling out, and we expect that plateau to continue,” he said.

The numbers could drop as more offenders make their way through probation and the court system, he said.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department has hired 19 custody deputies to keep up with demand over the last year, helped by realignment funding.

Taylor’s Probation Department works closely with the Sheriff’s Department and Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, which provides many of the services for offenders.

Probation has focused on case management for offenders coming back to the area after being paroled, released early from prison, or on probation locally. There are regional response teams, and county agencies have developed programs to fill in service gaps for mandated counseling services, job-development services and sober living.

There is counseling for sex-offender treatment coming to Santa Maria within a few weeks and to the South Coast within a month, Taylor said.

Domestic violence counseling specifically targeted at these offenders is on its way as well.

Job-development funding has been allocated for the 2012-13 fiscal year, so programs are being analyzed to get going within the next few months. Employment preparation and job opportunities are critical components for an offender’s success, since they provide social acceptance and economic and emotional support, Taylor said.

Organizations such as Community Solutions, Inc., the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Will Bridge, Mission House, and the Good Samaritan Shelter have helped connect offenders with clean, sober and detoxification housing and services at the Probation Report and Resource Center.

Two recently-hired rehabilitation service coordinators in the Public Defender’s Office will help reduce jail bed days and place jail inmates in programs after they are released, Taylor said.

The county’s realignment plan includes a data-gathering operation to better quantify the program’s success. UCSB is conducting a research study to identify the relevant data that should be collected to provide insight on the program’s effectiveness, and the county hopes to have a system operational soon, county staff members said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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