There has been some good news lately for the Sacramento County Probation Department, but not at its facility in Rosemont.
New state money for Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment plan has allowed the department to hire back or re-promote nearly 40 employees for programs to supervise parloees who previously would have been the state's responsibility.
But they aren't working at the Kiefer Boulevard juvenile hall, which had to lay off employees and close three more housing units this summer because of county budget cuts. ; now, it can take in just 197.
"We're down to probably the 1970s level of kids detained, and this is now 2011," Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer said. "Most of the kids now that get booked in are released–we just don't have the capacity to keep the same kids as we once did."
Every time the department cuts back, it loses beds and has to be more selective about who is locked up and who is released.
"We may get down to where they only bring us murderers, rapists and child molesters and [release] everybody else," Meyer said. "We're marching toward that day."
He said about four or five more housing units would have to close to make that a reality.
At juvenile hall, there are only enough staff to use 11 of the 17 housing units. Most of the 154 residents currently detained there are still going through the court process, said Assistant Chief Deputy Dave Semon. The juvenile court process is fairly quick, but if a youth is tried as an adult, the process can take years.
New facilities hardly used
As the county last year wrapped up a $170 million renovation to the juvenile hall, courthouse and other facilities, the staff who would operate them were being laid off or demoted.
And fresh money from the state, while serving as a more-than-welcome morale booster, isn't helping juvenile hall.
"It's just that the money coming from the state now is categorical and can only be used for adults as state programming, and cannot be used for juvenile hall," Meyer said.
And in some cases, just using that money is costing the department. Meyer recalled one staff member who hadn't worked in seven months, and had to be retrained at the department's expense in order to come back as a probation assistant.
Things aren't any better for adult probationers
Despite having enough state funding to open new facilities and supervise 100 percent of parolees who are handed to the county, the probation department now checks in with even fewer of adults on probation.
"We only supervise 4 percent of the people–that is prehistoric times," Meyer said.
He said realignment funding will allow the department to supervise about 1,200 extra probationers–on a list of 20,000.
And despite Meyer saying morale is very good within the department, he isn't optimistic about its future.
"It doesn't look like the budget is going to get better anytime soon," he said, noting there may be more cuts next year.