In 2017, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department began an internal investigation and data mining project. The goal was to determine if there could be policy and practice reforms that might benefit at-risk youths and keep them out of the juvenile justice system, The Santa Maria Sun reports. A comparison of county data revealed that children in Santa Barbara County were being detained and supervised by probation at higher rates than those in similar counties.
A large percentage of children who find themselves in the juvenile justice system have a history of mental illness and behavioral health problems. Such youths often have trauma resulting from abuse. However, many of these young people are not a threat to public safety.
Some experts believe that detaining adolescents with mental health problems is not the answer. Youths benefit from programs that emphasize therapy rather than detention.
This spring, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department was among 16 organizations from across the nation that received specialized diversion training.
Grant Funds Youth Diversion Efforts
The California Board of State and Community Corrections is awarding the Probation Department with a four-year $795,000 Youth Reinvestment Grant, according to the article. The funds will enable Santa Barbara County to offer struggling juveniles diversion programs at no cost to families.
“It’s an exciting opportunity and sits in very well with all the other initiatives we’ve been rolling out since the data mining,” said Holly Benton, Santa Barbara County’s deputy chief probation officer.
Young people with mental health and substance use problems do not belong behind bars. Offering evidence-based therapies and support in school to kids who are struggling will pay off in the long run. Those in the juvenile justice system are far more likely to be in the adult criminal justice system one day.
Benton points out that one of the reasons diversion programs have had limited success is due to money. Typically, parents are expected to cover the cost when their children are eligible for diversion. Being able to offer mental health and family counseling at no cost could significantly improve success rates.
The Probation Department will work closely with the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA), law enforcement, schools, and community members. Some of the grant money will fund a UC Santa Barbara study to assess which programs are reducing recidivism rates.
Santa Barbara’s new diversion program will likely begin sometime in the fall.
Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyer
If your child is facing legal difficulties or school expulsion, then please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. As a former prosecutor, attorney Walsh is uniquely equipped to advocate for the needs of your family and help bring about a favorable outcome.
Call juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh at 714.619.9355 today to learn more.