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Santa Barbara County Probation Quantifies Progress with Realignment Offenders

The Santa Barbara County Probation Department seems to be in good shape even after taking on responsibilities, and some former offenders, from the state due to realignment.

The county Board of Supervisors heard an update on those efforts Tuesday during a presentation on the Santa Barbara County Annual Report Public Safety Realignment Act, October 2011 to December 2014.

AB 109, known as the public safety realignment bill, was passed by the California Legislature in 2011 to save state funds and to reduce prison overcrowding by diverting convicted criminals to serve sentences in county jails.

Santa Barbara County has taken a data-driven approach to monitoring the impacts, with help from UC Santa Barbara researchers, who produced their third report.

Deputy Chief Probation Officer Tanja Heitman said 798 offenders were released onto "post release community supervision" over that time, and 650 offenders have received local sentences.

Most realigned offenders are Latino or white men between the ages of 25 and 45, and are likely to score in the high-risk range for violence and recidivism, Heitman said.

Within that population, 505 offenders exited supervision, and the majority (68 percent) completed their terms successfully, data show.

Eighty-six offenders, or 24 percent, received new convictions during their supervision term.

Heitman was most encouraged by data showing the impact of split sentences, those whose sentences include probation supervision upon release.

Sixty percent of those 161 offenders completed their terms successfully while 27 percent had new convictions in the first year outside of jail. 

Probation is also considering upping its use of GPS for crime prevention and to address noncompliance. Heitman said the Probation Department might not need additional funding to expand use of GPS, noting a possible increase from 20 devices to 45 or 50.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr was interested in housing for the mentally ill or homeless, while Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino asked questions about the supervision of sex offenders.

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam worried that evidence didn’t support some of the claims, but Chief Probation Officer Guadalupe Rabago reminded him the state’s failure to help these offenders was a main reason to shift responsibility to the county.

California’s probation programs had a 70-percent failure rate, Rabago said.

“Is it harder now to reoffend?” Lavagnino asked, noting that Prop 47 — a law reclassifying many drug-related felonies as misdemeanors — could have impact.

Heitman said data look at both felony and misdemeanor re-offenses.

“These reports are really important for us to evaluate this partnership,” Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said, recalling the fear county officials felt when AB 109 passed.

Wolf sits on the county Community Corrections Partnership, which receives money from the supervisors to fund data analysis.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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