Grand Jury Reviews Jail Diversion in Santa Barbara County

Source: Santa Barbara County Grand Jury

Over the past decade, changes in criminal justice have moved toward rehabilitation and reform and away from punishment. Concomitantly, the Santa Barbara County Main Jail population has been trending downward in the last five years. Then, through response protocols to the COVID-19 pandemic, the average daily population dropped another 37 percent by June 2020. However, reducing jail population in a steady and consistent manner relies on diversion and release of inmates through a variety of practices. 

The 2021 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury studied the developments in justice reform in Santa Barbara County and determined that by working together the five agencies in the criminal justice system – the Santa Barbara County offices of the Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, and the departments of Probation and Behavioral Wellness – are learning to manage the transition to greater jail diversion practices for low-level offenders. For this, the criminal justice partners have increased methods such as cite and release tickets, zero bail, referral to specialized courts, utilizing alternative facilities including Stabilization Centers, use of Co-Response teams, alternative sentencing, pre-trial supervision, and discharge planning. There are still some barriers to resolving issues such as inadequate technological support and lack of resources in and out of jail, as well as an ongoing need to evaluate the effectiveness of practices used. 

A multi-agency approach to diversion will more successfully reduce jail population and promote what is best for the individual while assuring a safe community. Working together as criminal justice teams creates a balance among these priorities. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors plays a key role in assisting the operational evolution of the Santa Barbara County criminal justice system.  

The full report can be found on the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury website: 

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury is a basic part of government within the judicial branch.  The Grand Jury acts independently, yet is under the general control of the Superior Court Presiding Judge to assure that it acts in accordance with the Penal Code of the State of California.  


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  1. 90829 Post incarceration support and a way to education and path to employment is key to end recidivism. One thing that we need to do to bring down the numbers of incarcerated is to focus on getting all students, particularly those with learning differences, foster youth , english language learners and those students with socioeconomic hardship to be proficient readers by end of 3rd grade. Our reading scores are painfully low, particularly at campuses where 95% qualify for lunch program. At Cleveland before the pandemic only 15% of students were proficient. At La Cuesta , an alternative high school only 8% are proficient in math and literacy. It gets worse… only 2% of our english language learners get to take the required A-G classes that allow one to graduate and be eligible to apply to 4 year UC. Only 6% of those with learning differences graduate eligible to a 4 year. One of the main culprits is our culture around how we teach ( or fail to) reading, This is not the teachers fault but a program called balanced literacy that is based on the cueing system and teachs kids to guess at words from context. What we need to do is use evidenced based approach that focuses on decoding,… breaking words into parts and matching sounds to letters…NOT guessing but learning. Next, we need to do automatic testing in k-3 so we can intervene early. Right now students get way too little help way too late. Also parents of means get their needs met fighting the district which typically denies services . Parents without means are stuck and count on public schools to deliver. We also need to reduce class sizes and get para educators and reading interventionist in the classroom. Teachers are not supported as anyone can see from the lastest Superintendent survey. Also the Superintendent is still pushing programs that cost a lot but make no difference in the area of literacy because she uses balanced literacy, an approach her favorite publisher profits from but pushes students from the education to the justice system. Too much special interest in the district. When they really care about literacy they will do automatic testing and evidenced based science of reading. Until then they are just pretending to care and the scores reflect it . Dont bother going on an advisory committee. I been on them and they just want you to rubber stamp their ideas but nothing evidenced based and nothing to help our kids read. The majority are not getting a free and appropriate education. Board members just rubber stamp the Superintendent’s wishes instead of guiding her and the district to success. We are failing our most vulnerable and parents who care get stonewalled and gaslighted. Literacy is a human right for a reason. But forget about it in SB. Sad but so true.

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