Los Prietos Boys Camp | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors received an update on May 18 from the county’s Probation Department regarding the Juvenile Justice Realignment Plan, which outlines best practices for youth offenders who will be transferred, or realigned, from the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice into local facilities in the custody of Santa Barbara County. 

The plan anticipates the closure of the state Division of Juvenile Justice on July 1, per Senate Bill 823, which was passed in September by the California Legislature. The new policy “realigns” the responsibility for care, custody, and supervision of youth offenders — who are up to 25 years old, in some cases — to counties, which will be allocated funding to meet the youths’ needs.

All services for committed youth will remain in place, with additional services and programs built in collaboration with community-based organizations. These new services, which will be provided as needed to youth at the Susan J. Gionfriddo Juvenile Justice Center in Santa Maria and Los Prietos Boys Camp in Santa Barbara, will be based on individual treatment plans and will include educational assistance for youth working toward earning their high school diplomas. The Probation Department already offers services such as mentorship programs and moral reasoning therapy, a k a Moral Reconation Therapy.

“We understand the desire to bring youth back to their communities and have them serve secure commitments closer to home,” said Deputy Chief Probation Officer Holly Benton in a conversation after the Board of Supervisors meeting. “This gives counties opportunities to innovate and provide programs that lead to better outcomes, and we’re well situated to support youth and provide services to them.”

This initiative slates Santa Barbara County to receive $424,000 from the state for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and funding will increase in successive years as state facilities close and more youth are committed locally, said Benton. The hard closure date for state facilities is July 1, 2023.

According to Benton, the department is committed to bringing about positive change and is already seeing the impact of the realignment locally.

“These plans are based on the foundations of public safety, balanced with positive youth development, risk needs, responsibility, and interventions for behavior change,” explained Benton at the supervisors’ meeting. “As the field of juvenile probation continues to evolve and transform, we continue to seek opportunities to transform locally in proactive and forward-thinking ways. We want to lead the change, not just respond to it.”

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