Thursday, August 25, 2016
[Santa Barbara County] Female offenders could join Los Prietos Boys Camp
The Santa Barbara County Probation Department will evaluate whether adding girls to Los Prietos Boys Camp and Academy would work to increase use of the all-boys residential, correctional and treatment facility.
"We don't want to discard anything that may be used to facilitate that need," Chief Probation Officer Lupe Rabago told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about his department wanting to look at all options for increasing use of the camp.
Los Prietos now only accommodates 13- to 18-year-old boys.
The camp is located approximately 20 miles north of Santa Barbara on 17 acres in the Los Padres National Forest, and there are two dormitory-style buildings on the grounds. One building is used to house boys at the camp, while the other vacant building could potentially be used for housing females, Rabago said.
After visiting the camp earlier this year, the grand jury concluded the facility, which has capacity for 96 youths but on average only operates with about 40 boys housed at the site at any given time, was a major community asset but that it is underutilized.
In a report released in June, the grand jury recommended the Board of Supervisors direct the Probation Department to evaluate whether adding female juvenile offenders to the Los Prietos Boys Camp program would increase its use.
Female juvenile offenders now are housed at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall or out of the county for treatment.
"I don't have a problem changing over to female if that's where you get your biggest bang for your buck," said board Chairman Peter Adam, but noted he believes there would be inherent problems mixing boys and girls together at the camp.
While no one openly necessarily disagreed with Adam, his fellow supervisors said his concerns were premature since the direction to staff only was to evaluate if opening the camp to female offenders is feasible and will increase the facility's use.
"The issue is just a recommendation for a female-specific program," said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf. "It doesn't have to be at the camp. It could be at juvenile hall ... separate areas. If the camp is the best location, then let's use it."
Rabago was directed unanimously to come back within six months with a report that looks at how adding female juvenile offenders to Los Prietos would affect its utilization.
He said the opportunity will allow his staff time to study the continuum of services it offers young girls and how the department can develop a commensurate program.
"There are so many things that we can look at," Rabago said.
He also said a staff report released last week for Tuesday's hearing on the grand jury's recommendation that his department didn't support evaluating the addition to females at Los Prietos was an error.
August 24, 2016
By April Charlton