Thursday, May 11, 2017

[San Luis Obispo County] Newly expanded SLO County Juvenile Hall may have been overbuilt, Grand Jury report says

After San Luis Obispo County recently completed a $20 million expansion of its juvenile hall, a Grand Jury report released Tuesday says, in hindsight, it may have been overbuilt.
The report shows there are a lot of empty beds after the expansion and that juvenile crimes seem to be on the decline statewide. San Luis Obispo County's expanded juvenile hall now has 65 beds, and the report finds the average daily use is 23 beds.
The multimillion dollar expansion project many years in the making more than doubled the size of San Luis Obispo County's juvenile hall and increased the number of beds by 20. But the Grand Jury report shows the need for more space has declined significantly, with the statewide trend going in the other direction.
Bookings into California juvenile detention facilities decreased 47 percent between 2015 and 2016, the hall's average daily population has been reduced by 38 percent, and filings by the District Attorney's office charging juveniles with criminal offenses statewide have plunged by 64 percent.
The report says the new hall has more space than it is likely to need, but it also notes the county's probation department is making use of some of that excess space.
In a previous interview back in October, here was the department's goal: "We wanted to take one of our current 15 beds and make that into a treatment facility so we don't have to send kids off to treatments out of state," said Edward Libscher, Chief Deputy Probation Officer for San Luis Obispo County. 
This program now implemented because of the expansion is expected to save the county some money, but the Grand Jury warns the hall's extra space should be used in other ways as well.
County officials declined an interview, but Assistant Chief Probation Officer Robert Reyes said in a statement, "We have received the Grand Jury report and it is currently being reviewed. Once the County Board of Supervisors and other county officials have discussed the report, there will be a formal response in the near future." 
For now, fewer young people are being locked up, leaving plenty of empty space behind these metal bars.
The report also says it's possible the trend in juvenile crime could reverse, and if that's the case, the new juvenile hall would be ready to house a larger youth population.
May 9, 2017
By Angel Russell

1 comment:

Jon said...

Hindsight is 20-20 and this seems to be classic Monday morning quarterbacking. The expansion project was years in the planning and making and was deemed necessary during all that time. As a former Grand Juror in San Luis Obispo County I can say that our inspections of the facility in recent years did show a cramped and crowded environment. $20 million is a reasonable price considering the scope of the work. That juvenile crime would be now heading into a drought could not have been foreseen by anyone involved. Since the Probation Department is able to make use of the perhaps temporarily available beds, I see no reason to conclude that this project was overbuilt. I see this report as an unnecessary peering into the past instead of looking at a real, ongoing, current problems in local government. For example, several Grand Juries here, including the two I served on, have declined to look into the burgeoning homelessness in our County, deeming the problem "too large" and "too intractable" to deal with at the Grand Jury level. Perhaps so, but we will not know until we try. As the old WWII joke goes, "How many French troops does it take to defend Paris? Nobody knows, it has never been tried."