The Board of Supervisors received an update Tuesday from the county’s Probation Department on the Juvenile Justice Realignment Plan, which aims to establish best practices for youth committed in the county’s custody.
This year’s realignment plan comes about nine months after the state legislature approved Senate Bill 823, which ruled that the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice no longer accept youth committed by counties. The new policy essentially realigns the responsibility for care, custody and supervision to counties, while providing allocated funds to provide for youth needs.
Santa Barbara County is expected to receive $424,000 from the state for the coming fiscal year, and the new plan will go into effect July 1.
Within the plan, the Probation Department outlined services that it plans to continue administering as well as new services it plans to implement at the Susan J. Gionfriddo Juvenile Justice Center in Santa Maria and the Los Prietos Boys Camp in Los Padres National Forest. Already, the department offers moral reconation therapy, interactive journaling exercises, Alcoholics Anonymous and mentorship programs, among other treatments, at both SMJH and LPBC.
Within the coming year, the department will work with community partners to implement educational services to aid committed youth who have not earned their high school diploma. They are also in discussion with Santa Barbara City College and Allan Hancock College about post-secondary educational opportunities.
The plan also outlines proposed efforts to advance mental health services through the Behavioral Wellness Department, create an evidence-based program for gang violence intervention and partner with a community-based organization for substance abuse counseling and treatment.
During Tuesday’s presentation, Deputy Chief Probation Officer Holly Benton said the department will remain committed to providing a personalized approach for youth in county custody to bring about change.
“These plans are based on the foundations of public safety, balanced with positive youth development, risk needs, responsibility and interventions for behavior change,” Officer Benton said. “Our county has the robust continuum of responses to juvenile law enforcement referrals, from diversion in the community to a secure commitment for the most serious offenses … We want to lead the change, not just respond to it.”
Supervisors also heard an update on the county’s efforts to advance racial equity and inclusion during Tuesday’s meeting from the county’s Human Resources and Community Services departments.
After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, the board allocated $500,000 to Human Resources and CSD to advance equity within the county. About $278,000 in funds remain, and the departments asked supervisors for input on the best way to oversee the distribution of the remaining funds for future equity projects.
The departments pitched three options.
The first would be to have the remaining fund distributed by the Fund for Santa Barbara. The second would be to develop an internal county process or committee for distribution. The third was a hybrid approach combining both models.
After discussion, the supervisors ultimately agreed to have a second conversation about the hybrid model during a future meeting.
Human Resources Director Maria Ellen De Guevara briefed the board on updates to the county’s JOIN framework, which promotes a phased approach to an equity and inclusion initiative. The goal of the initiative is to spark conversation among county officials through storytelling and learning labs to bring positive change.
Since implementing the framework in December 2020, Human Resources completed phase one of the plan, which included the implementation of six equity learning labs and the completion of an organizational equity assessment.
The first phase of the program targeted leaders in the county because “research finds that senior leaders play a critical role in building a race equity culture,” Ms. De Guevara told the board.
“As leaders support their teams and examine issues of racism, leaders also foster conditions that reflect race equity through the policies and practices that they implement and model,” she added.
The department is now turning their attention to phase two of the program, which extends training to the next tier of leaders and implements new learning labs.
During the Community Services equity presentation, officials informed the board about a Central Coast Equity Study currently being conducted by the USC Equity Research Institute, the UCSB Division of Social Sciences, the UCSB Bloom Center on Poverty, Inequality and Democracy, and the Fund for Santa Barbara.
The study is set to be completed in July and will produce “equity-based actionable data for policy and systems change efforts in the Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties region,” according to the Community Services presentation.
Once the study is released, CSD Executive Director George Chapjian recommended that the board take the results into consideration when making their future decisions of equity and inclusion policy and projects.
Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart praised the departments for their efforts to advance equity, citing a need for sustained equity advancement in the county.
“We need systemic change,” Mr. Hart said. “We need to internalize and incorporate these values as guiding principles for county government at every level and not let this just be a response to the moment. This is a long-term commitment we want to make and continue to support.”
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino echoed Mr. Hart’s praise, citing the importance of listening and learning from other’s perspectives.
“As an older white man, you do have different blindspots, and at some point, it’s getting to the position where we remove that defensive stance, as I’m trying to do, and listen more to understand,” Mr. Lavagnino said.