The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] – Volume 22, Number 38
Santa Barbara County Probation Department Approves New Juvenile Justice Realignment Plan
By Caleb Wiseblood
Responses to interviews with incarcerated youth and their families helped shape a new plan that the Santa Barbara County Probation Department recently drafted.
The 2022 Juvenile Justice Realignment Plan outlines a variety of programs and policies designed to provide appropriate rehabilitation for those who have been realigned from state care to county detention. This change is due to a recent Senate bill that transfers responsibility for young inmates to their respective counties.
Under the proposed plan, young inmates in the county would have more space to exercise and increased incentives for good behavior. Institutional staff would also be proactive in communicating with families and guardians.
Deputy Chief Probation Officer Kimberly Shean presented the realignment plan at the Nov. 12 meeting of the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council. Shean explained that many of the plan’s initiatives were directly inspired by feedback from polls and interviews conducted during a six-month research period.
“The kids talked about the importance of amenities and recreation programs,” Shean said. “The families said they wanted to have more information and contact with the staff at the juvenile facility and understand how their child was doing, what they were involved in.”
To address the recreation issue, the realignment plan includes a plan for a proposed outdoor recreational space at the Susan J. Gionfriddo Juvenile Justice Center in Santa Maria. This outdoor space would include a soccer field and individual training stations where inmates could exercise. The space would also facilitate outdoor visits with young people and their families.
In terms of amenities, the plan describes a points-based incentive program, in which young people carry an “excellent behavior card” that supervisors can mark as a reward for positive behavior.
One of the ranked incentives is eligibility to apply for “unity of trust,” a living space where inmates have more access to personal items and other freedoms, Shean explained.
“Their doors are unlocked and open during the day. They can go in and out. So there are definitely opportunities for leadership and more independence and better decision making, ”said Shean, while discussing the unity of trust.
To help keep families informed of their youth, the realignment plan includes a description of a youth development coach who is responsible for making weekly contact with the inmate guardians assigned to them.
“We’ve been in a ‘we call parents to visit’ or ‘we call parents to pick up their child’ mode, but it’s a whole new frontier for our staff, and it’s a ongoing commitment, ”Shean mentioned.
At the end of the Nov. 12 meeting, members of the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Committee and its Juvenile Justice Realignment Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve the plan. Chief Probation Officer Tanja Heitman said a finalized version of the realignment plan would be forwarded to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to hear a presentation on the plan at its Dec. 14 meeting. .