The program was originally suggested by the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury, which issued a report in February saying that inmates without a ride from the jail have few options if they are released in the middle of the night.
An average of nine inmates are released between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily, the grand jury report found, and since the jail is relatively isolated and bus lines do not run in the late night and early morning hours, many inmates will walk through the dimly-lit area on foot.
Jail inmates are now being advised that they can remain in the jail's lobby until daylight hours, and the jury also suggested Santa Barbara County put in a "Lights On" program, modeled after one program of the same name in Orange County.
The program there uses a faith-based organization which staffs a converted motor home in the jail parking lot.
Volunteers there provide released inmates with coffee, snacks, bus schedules, use of a cell phone and connection to services.
On Tuesday, supervisors approved a similar program for Santa Barbara County's Main Jail facility, but one that will be run out of the of the lobby of the Inmate Reception Center instead of a mobile home.
The program will be run at no cost to the county by Believer's Edge, a Christian organization that includes members of various religious groups in Santa Barbara, according to Lt. Tim McWilliams, who works in the Jail Programs Unit.
Volunteers would staff the program from 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. and will provide coffee, snacks, and cell phone charging to the released inmates, according to county documents.
Believer’s Edge will be responsible for maintaining the supplies for the program and cleaning the lobby area during those hours at their expense.
"One of the stipulations is that the Believer’s Edge group can only provide neutral, non-ideological support to people released from jail," McWilliams said, adding that there's no target date for services to begin because the department is waiting on signed documents from the Board of Supervisors.