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: www.sbcgj.org
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.