Monday, August 22, 2016
[Santa Barbara County] Grand jury says Los Prietos Boys Camp underutilized; supervisors to discuss Tuesday
After members of the Santa Barbara County grand jury visited the Los Prietos Boys Camp and Academy earlier this year, jurors concluded the facility was a well-run, major community asset that's underutilized and recommended the county look at ways to increase its use.
However, when the Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday, the elected officials aren't expected to adopt the majority of recommendations the grand jury laid out in its June report titled "Los Prietos Boys Camp Effective, But Underutilized" following its investigation of the county-run facility.
Los Prietos is a 96-bed, residential, correctional and treatment facility for 13- to 18-year-old boys that's located approximately 20 miles north of Santa Barbara on 17 acres in the Los Padres National Forest. The facility is not open to females, which the grand jury believes should be evaluated to potentially increase camp utilization.
During 2015, an average of 37 young men were held in custody at Los Prietos at any given time, which translates into about 70 percent of one dormitory's possible holding capacity, according to the report.
Another possible way to increase use of the existing facilities would be to offer programs of shorter duration, from 120 days and 180 days to 90 days and/or 60 days, while also re-evaluating its acceptance criteria and process to increase the number of youth ordered to the camp, according to the report.
However, in its required response to the grand jury — a five-page letter penned by the supervisors to Presiding Judge James Herman — which is expected to be approved by the board Tuesday, the supervisors balk at the recommendations.
"Placing low-risk youth in programming intended for the higher-risk population often has a negative impact on such youth and could cause an increase in recidivism and is not recommended," the letter reads.
"Further, changing the eligibility requirement may result in youth being ordered to the programs with needs that exceed the programs' capability, most notably in situations where youth have distinct mental health needs and/or learning disabilities."
The letter goes on to state that evaluating the possibility of decreasing the lengths of the programs offered at Los Prietos to accommodate more youth at the camp also won't be implemented as recommended by the grand jury.
"Probation does not agree that a further decrease in the duration of a program to accommodate more youth (that are not appropriate for this program) would be in the best interest of youth," the letter reads. "There is a core length of time needed to facilitate lasting change in this population."
The letter also says the board won't direct the county Probation Department to evaluate adding female juvenile offenders to the Los Prietos Boys Camp program because it's not warranted or reasonable.
Supervisors are backing grand jury recommendations to encourage the establishment of a post-incarceration mentorship program in the North County — presently such programs only are available to youth who live in the South County — as well as a single calculation methodology for juvenile recidivism and utilize it in all future reporting.
There's no standard calculation methodology in the county for measuring juvenile recidivism.
August 21, 2016
By April Charlton