The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury released a report this week analyzing developments in justice reform and jail diversion in Santa Barbara County.
The report reviewed changes in the criminal justice system over the past decade.
According to the jury, 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.”
The grand jury, which released its report Monday, determined that the Santa Barbara County Main Jail population has been trending downward in the last five years.
With response protocols to COVID-19, the average daily population at the Santa Barbara jail dropped 37% by June 2020.
The grand jury said the lowered jail population is the result of several initiatives by criminal justice partners.
According to the report, “partners have increased methods such as cite and release tickets, zero bail, referral to specialized courts, utilizing alternative facilities including Stabilization Centers, greater use of Co-Response teams, alternative sentencing, pre-trial supervision and discharge planning.”
These changes took place as a result of “changing societal attitudes toward keeping criminals locked away,” according to the report.
The grand jury reported that rehabilitation is now key to criminal justice reform.
While there is overall progress in reducing the jail population, the grand jury concluded with recommendations for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
There are seven recommendations, and the grand jury is asking the Board of Supervisors to address six of those.
The recommendations center around cohesion between the five agencies in the criminal justice system. The report’s “Recommendation One” asks the Board of Supervisors to allocate funding for a consolidated criminal justice data system.
The grand jury concluded that “collaboration among the justice partners is vital for the success of jail diversion. Consensus is developing… Criminal justice collaboration that allows both public safety and improved personal reform would be a gift to the community.”
The full report can be viewed at sbcgj.org/2021/JailDiversion.pdf.