County Probation Provides Pretrial Resources to Those Released Under Zero Bail

County Probation Provides Pretrial Resources to Those Released Under Zero Bail title=
County Probation Provides Pretrial Resources to Those Released Under Zero Bail
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Source: Santa Barbara County Probation

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Barbara County Probation has made it a priority to quickly escalate its pretrial programming services to address the rapid release of individuals in the community facing mental health challenges, housing insecurity, or who have little support in the community during the shelter-in-place order. With the closure of the courts and adoption of ‘zero bail,’ Santa Barbara Probation has deployed additional staff and probation officers to support court proceedings and Pretrial Supervision to appropriately supervise and support individuals being released in addition to current Probation clients.

“We are dedicated to helping those who are out on zero bail during this pandemic connect with the resources they need and help to keep our community safe. These individuals are coming under our pretrial supervision and we are assisting with discharge plans so that individuals have the proper resources during this ongoing health crisis,” said Santa Barbara County Probation Chief Tanja Heitman. “Our department is committed to keeping our community safe by ensuring all individuals who need our help – whether they are under our direct supervision or not – are served adequately and supervised with proven evidence-based practices.”

Probation is helping the local court facilitate agreements for releases and coordinate discharge plans from jail for non-Probation clients resulting in more pretrial supervision. Up to 646 inmates in Santa Barbara County have been screened for zero bail since the beginning of April, and there are currently over 282 people on pretrial supervision, up from the 191 cases at the beginning of the year.

Under ‘zero bail,’ Probation serves to connect the courts, attorneys, and the Sheriff’s office helping prepare cases and assess whether a ‘zero bail’ release is warranted. Santa Barbara County Probation has been supporting these individuals on pretrial supervised release to address their needs including housing, treatment programs, and mental health programs.

“Probation has always been in a unique position to help the local courts assess an individual to determine risk-to-reoffend factors as well as the right rehabilitative services, and now in the midst of the COVID pandemic, our trained officers are needed more than ever to keep the community safe,” said CPOC Executive Director Karen Pank. “Probation is the safety net for the justice system and we are there for supervision and individualized rehabilitative care that is needed to help keep individuals and the community safe.”

The Santa Barbara County Probation Pretrial Division originated in July 2017 as a pretrial supervised release program funded through the Community Corrections Partnership. The program was expanded with additional Deputy Probation Officers as the released population grew and additional officers were added over time. Following the Court’s successful Judicial Council Pretrial grant application, responsibility for assessments was transferred from the Superior Court to Probation in January 2020.

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