Santa Barbara County 1998-99 Grand Jury Report

Detention Facilities in
Santa Barbara County

Released April 23, 1999


The following report covers facilities within the county of Santa Barbara used to detain individuals. For organizational purposes, the report is divided into three sections:


To comply with California Penal Code 919(b), which mandates that each year members of the Grand Jury investigate the conditions and management of public prison facilities and report on their findings.


The Grand Jury visited each of the facilities listed in the introduction. Staff members on duty at the time of the visits were interviewed. Detainees, when present, were also interviewed. All facilities were inspected at least once, with many sites receiving two or more visits.


The Santa Barbara County Department of Probation operates five separate facilities with differing levels of service and security for juvenile offenders in Santa Barbara County. The department is charged with the responsibility of detaining and providing treatment for male and female youthful offenders.

The juvenile halls located in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are operated to hold youthful offenders from the time of their arrest until their disposition hearing, when they are sentenced to a treatment facility operated by the County or by the California Youth Authority. The County’s treatment facilities include Los Prietos Boys Camp and St. Vincent’s Treatment Facility. The County also operates Tri-Counties Boot Camp for nonviolent offenders between the ages of 13 and 17 from Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. The three counties share the operating costs for this facility. The department also uses home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Transportation and housing difficulties often result from the long distances between the northern and southern parts of the county. While juvenile cases are heard in both Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, many offenders from the Santa Maria area are housed in Santa Barbara due to a lack of space in Santa Maria and must be transported to daily court appearances. Expansion of the Santa Maria facility, currently in process, should ameliorate these problems.

A high attrition rate among juvenile institution officers (JIOs) has also been a recurring problem. During the 1997-98 fiscal year, 21 officers resigned their positions. Seven of these, however, were promoted to deputy probation officer. To help alleviate this problem a new career-enhancing classification has been established.

Juvenile Hall, Santa Barbara

With accommodations for fifty-six, there were sixty-five juveniles housed during one visit by the Grand Jury and sixth-six during a subsequent visit. The length of stay varies, but the average is 14 days for girls and 18 days for boys.

Within the past year this facility has been inspected by the Board of Corrections, the Juvenile Justice Committee, the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, the County Fire Marshall, Building and Safety Department, the California Medical Association, and the Grand Jury.

Members of the staff appear to be both competent and genuinely concerned about the welfare and future of these young persons. There is a well-equipped dispensary and a full-time registered nurse on site. A medical doctor and other health services, both scheduled and as needed, are provided through written agreements with the county’s health and mental health operations.

Educational opportunities for detainees are provided in a classroom equipped with several computers and a large variety of books and maps. Three teachers and two aides hold classes on weekdays. There is an exercise yard equipped for basketball, handball and tennis and a swimming-pool that is operated from April through October. Each juvenile is required to engage in heavy muscular activity for one hour each day.

Wear and tear from the high volume of use is beginning to show on parts of these buildings, some of which are nearly fifty years old; however, extensive renovation work is in progress, including the following:

In addition, grading was under way to prepare for the installation of a modular building to be used as a new courtroom.

Juvenile Hall, Santa Maria

This facility, built in 1976, is too small to serve the needs of the northern part of the county. Designed for 20 detainees, it contained 30 juveniles at the time of our first visit. The cells are sparse but clean; those with two occupants have a second mattress on the floor. TV cameras monitor the cells. The bathrooms are generally clean and in good condition. Daily hearings are conducted in a courtroom attached to the facility.

The Probation Department has been awarded a federal construction grant to build twenty more rooms for this facility. Construction began in November 1998, and completion is expected by fall 1999.

Detainees spend four hours daily in a schoolroom that is well furnished and bright in appearance. Subjects include mathematics, English, science, social studies, health, and art. Physical education is a required part of the curriculum. All classes are taught in English by one full-time and one part-time teacher from the SB County Education Office. An adjacent library contains a variety of resource and leisure reading materials. In conjunction with the current expansion, two addition modular classrooms are planned.

A large recreation area offers basketball and tennis courts with a grassy area available for other activities. Contact sports are not permitted. A small but well equipped dispensary staffed by a registered nurse and a part-time doctor provides for medical needs. At other times required medical treatment is provided by a nearby medical center. An on-site kitchen is used to prepare the breakfast meal and snack items. Midday and evening meals are prepared by a private contractor and brought to the site.

Los Prietos Boys Camp

Los Prietos Boys Camp is located twenty miles north of Santa Barbara within the Los Padres National Forest. A new thirty-year lease with the U.S. Forest Service was signed in 1994.

Los Prietos is a minimum-security camp designed to rehabilitate boys aged 13 to 18 who have been classified as "mid-level delinquents." The average length of stay is approximately five months. The camp has 56 beds. During Grand Jury visits, the sleeping areas, library and sanitary facilities were all clean.

Adjacent to the dormitory is a well-equipped school. Courses include English, reading, history, mathematics and science. In addition, grants from the Private Industry Council have provided equipment for classes in the operation and repair of computers. The boys attend classes for four hours daily. In addition to academic subjects, workshop and vocational training is provided. When not in classes, the boys assist the U.S. Forest Service in the maintenance of trails and campgrounds. The classrooms are bright and clean with a good selection of books. The teacher-to-student ratio is 1 to 15. Two counselors provide counseling for the 56 boys, a ratio of 1 to 28.

A new vocational training building with a large selection of woodworking tools was completed in January 1998. Some of the boys were busily engaged in making toys for community charities during Grand Jury visits. Meals are served cafeteria style in a large new dining hall. A kitchen is staffed with professional cooks, who are assisted by some of the boys. Much of the kitchen equipment was moved from the old building but is still serviceable.

Medical care is provided by a full-time registered nurse; a doctor is at the camp two days a week. He is also on call if needed. The well-equipped infirmary contains five beds.

While in camp the boys are monitored closely but treated with respect. The program stresses accountability and responsibility. Any displays of gang association or affiliation will result in removal from the program. When boys complete the program, a graduation ceremony is held to which friends and family are invited.

Upon their return to the community, an aftercare officer tracks their activities until they are beyond the age of 18. Aftercare programs include family counseling, school enrollment and job skills training that will lead to gainful employment.

Tri-Counties Boot Camp

The Tri-Counties Boot Camp, opened in November 1997, is located adjacent to Los Prietos. Construction was partially funded by a grant from the Federal Department of Justice. Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties proportionately shared the remaining costs. The three counties also share operating expenses. The facility was built to house forty boys; Santa Barbara’s allocation is fifteen, Ventura’s is twenty, and San Luis Obispo’s is five.

Boot Camp is designed for low-level nonviolent offenders between the ages of 13 and 17. A rigorous program includes school, vocational training and an athletic program. A single counselor provides counseling for as many as 40 boys. The boys also assist the U.S. Forestry Service. The dormitory contains both single and bunk beds, sanitary facilities and a small library. All are kept in spotless condition.

Though sharing facilities with the Los Prietos camp, the boys from the two camps do not mix. The Los Prietos boys go to school in the morning, the Boot Camp boys go in the afternoon. They dine at different times and even wear different clothing.

Upon graduation from the Boot Camp program, which averages 120 days, the boys participate in a three- to eight-month aftercare program. The program includes multiple weekly contacts with probation officers, a school-attendance program, job-placement assistance, random drug testing, recreational planning and counseling services as needed.

St. Vincent’s Treatment Facility

This facility occupies a portion of what used to be an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity. Currently, the treatment facility operates under an agreement between the sisters and the County of Santa Barbara. Current capacity is for seven girls, ages 12 to 18. The average length of stay in the program is six months. The program here is designed to modify anti-social behavior.

The program is divided into four stages: (1) personal hygiene, (2) opportunities to learn and practice the skills needed for independent living, (3) community re-entry, which gives the girls the opportunity to try their new skills in an independent setting and (4) the progression stage, where the girls can refine their skills while attending schools and/or jobs and work programs.

Each weekday the girls are bused to school classes at El Puente Continuation School, operated by the County School District. Weekend programs include swimming, hiking, and other activities relating to nature. On Tuesday and Saturday afternoons, the girls are taken to do their grocery shopping.

The living areas are clean and attractive with a home-like atmosphere. There are kitchen facilities where the girls prepare their own meals. The girls are also responsible for the cleaning and day-to-day maintenance of their bedrooms and common areas, as well as laundry.


Staff of the Santa Barbara County Probation Department are to be commended for doing an excellent job. The Grand Jury found that juvenile offenders are dealt with in a sensitive and constructive manner.


The Grand Jury made multiple visits to most of the facilities operated by the Sheriff’s Department. Without fail, they were met and escorted by knowledgeable, articulate, professional and courteous staff members who evidenced proficiency in their depth of understanding of facility operations and procedures. Grand jurors were also impressed with the cleanliness of the Sheriff’s facilities.

The Sheriff’s Department is responsible for housing inmates involved in crimes for which the sentence is less than one year in jail. Criminals sentenced to longer terms serve their sentences in correctional institutions operated by the State of California. In reality, however, the Sheriff’s Department is required to house a fairly large contingent of violent criminals for extended periods of time until those individuals can be tried and sentenced.

Facilities operated by the Sheriff’s Department vary significantly in the level of security and amenities provided to detainees. For example, inmates assigned to the honor farms have been identified as low-escape risks and are housed in environments that offer minimal physical restrictions, while individuals who are being held pending trial on serious charges are housed in the most secure section of the main jail and allowed very limited opportunities to leave their cells. A facility which is used to house prisoners for only a few hours does not need to provide the same level of nutritional, medical or sanitary facilities as the main jail, which might house prisoners for a year or more.

Main Jail Division

The main jail, located in Goleta and comprised of several buildings, provides a range of services for detainees, who are classified as pre-trial or sentenced. Several levels of confinement security are maintained at the jail. Upon arrival at the jail, all detainees are evaluated mentally, physically and socially. During incarceration they are clothed, housed and fed, and they receive medical attention as needed. Opportunities are provided for detainees to meet with family and friends and have access to legal assistance.

On-site medical treatment for conditions ranging from low-level coughs and colds to moderate aches and pains is readily available for all. Medical problems requiring treatment beyond on-site capabilities seem less likely to be resolved. Detainees who exhibit symptoms of mental-health problems are referred to the County’s Mental Health staff for evaluation.

Most male detainees are served two daily meals in their cells and one hot meal in the dining room. Female and high-security detainees eat all meals in their cells. The two cold meals are comprised of sandwiches, cereals, juice, milk, fruit and salad, as appropriate.

Detainees have access to a commissary operated by the Inmate Services Division that allows them to purchase supplemental items not routinely provided by the jail. Such things as commercial snack foods, sundries, magazines and other convenience-store items are made available for purchase (from detainees’ personal funds placed on deposit with the Sheriff). Revenues generated through the commissary operation, as well as from inmate-accessible vending machines and a collect phone call system established by Inmate Services, provide structured educational opportunities, classroom texts and hands-on computer training for all eligible detainees.

During several visits the Grand Jury observed multiple beds in a day room which is normally not used to house inmates. Use of this space to provide sleeping facilities in overcrowded conditions weakens security in the facility, as cell doors must remain open at all times to provide those inmates with access to toilet facilities in the cells.

Men’s Honor Farm

The men’s honor farm, a minimum-security facility for non-violent men, is contained in a two-acre compound located near the main jail. The sleeping quarters are divided into three sections—60 beds for pretrial inmates, 174 beds for sentenced inmates and 20 beds for inmates participating in the Work Furlough Program. Facility usage is at 80% to 85% of capacity because not enough inmates of the main jail are deemed suitable for the honor farm.

The facility provides an assortment of physical recreational opportunities as well as classes for high-school competency, English, parenting skills and computer training. The Sheriff’s Treatment Program (STP) provides drug and alcohol rehabilitation counseling. Because inmates’ sentences vary widely (from days to several months), the STP has 30-, 60- and 90-day program tracks to accommodate various sentence lengths.

Sentenced inmates are allowed to work outside the compound, while pre-trial inmates work only inside the compound. There are work programs at the jail laundry, the jail kitchen and County landscaping. In 1997 these programs saved the county $1.53 million, with labor valued at the minimum wage. Inmates operate the jail laundry facility and the jail kitchen, which provide laundry and meals for all inmates of the main jail, the men’s honor farm and the juvenile hall in Santa Barbara. A landscaping program is operated by inmates who tend the grounds of the main jail, the honor farm and the County Courthouse under the supervision of deputies.

The work furlough program is for inmates who work at jobs outside the honor farm, without Sheriff’s supervision, but who return after work to reside at the honor farm. These inmates pay a nominal fee for their living quarters and meals at the honor farm. Fees collected in 1997 from the men’s and women’s honor farms totaled $132,217.

Persons convicted of a misdemeanor with sixty days or less to serve may apply to the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP) as an alternative to jail. The individuals live at home and continue to work at civilian jobs. In addition, they must perform at least two days of work each week at selected work sites throughout the county to fulfill their sentence. Public service can be performed at a variety of locations such as local parks and community centers.

Women’s Honor Farm

The women’s honor farm is a minimum-security facility for non-violent female offenders, with capacity for 36 inmates including four inmates in work furlough programs. The facility size is appropriate to the demand. The facility, located in a residential neighborhood, appears not to negatively impact the neighborhood. The inmates maintain the grounds, prepare their own food in the on-site kitchen and do their own laundry and housekeeping.

Inmates are offered classes in parenting skills, high school competency, nutrition and health. The latter two are required for all persons working in the kitchen.

The average stay at the women’s honor farm is three to six months. Visitation is held on Sundays, from 9 a.m. to noon. Each inmate is allowed four visitors, including children. The visitation occurs in a parklike, landscaped area.

In addition to housekeeping, gardening and laundry duties, women’s honor farm inmates perform work at the main jail administrative offices and the Coroner’s facility. They also provide catering services for various sheriff’s department events, highway weeding and trash collection for Caltrans and work at various nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross, Dalmatian Dreams, and the Food Bank. The total dollar value of inmates’ work at the women’s honor farm in 1997 (valued at minimum wage ) was $174,023.

Isla Vista Substation

The Isla Vista substation, whose jurisdiction includes most off-campus housing for the student population of the nearby university. The station also houses officers from the California Highway Patrol and the university police force. There is good cooperation between the agencies and the focus is on crime prevention and education. The facility has no detention capability.

Lompoc Valley Substation

The Sheriff maintains a patrol substation responsible for unincorporated areas of the Lompoc Valley. As this facility is occasionally used to interview persons who could be subject to arrest, they maintain a secure interview room; however, there is no detention capability at this facility.

New Cuyama Substation

The rural community of New Cuyama is located in the northeast corner of the county. The sub-station maintained here, a rustic former single-family residence classified as a "residential deputy" facility, provides a law enforcement presence with two assigned deputies. They each work four days in a row on a rotating basis. When the deputies are not actually working their ten-hour shifts, they are still considered on duty; hence they have in-home direct communications with the Sheriff's dispatch office.

While the substation has the appearance of a residence, the presence of a steel-barred jail cell off the main room serves as a quick reminder of its true purpose. Two vehicles are assigned to this location. One is a standard police cruiser, and the other is a police-equipped off-road utility vehicle. The office contains a computer, but the system is not linked to the Sheriff’s communications center. All communication, including access to data, is limited to radio and telephone access. Because this station covers a large geographic area, deputies draw on the services of sentenced inmates to assist in general housekeeping and maintenance tasks.

Orcutt Substation

The Sheriff maintains a fully functioning branch jail in Orcutt next to the Sheriff's patrol office at the same location. This holding facility is used by Guadalupe and Santa Maria police officers as well as Sheriff's deputies to detain persons suspected of or charged with criminal and civil code violations. It serves as a collection facility to avoid having deputies and police officers spend inordinate amounts of time individually transporting detainees to the main jail. Sheriff’s Department buses or vans making daily trips to courts in the northern part of the county collect arrestees and transport them to the main jail.

This facility was opened in 1970 and has the capacity to hold up to 26 persons. A portion of the facility is used to house inmates who are nearing completion of their sentences and have earned the privilege of less restrictive housing. These inmates perform a variety of maintenance tasks and prepare meals.


The Sheriff's Department has performed the municipal police function under contract for the City of Carpinteria since 1992. The police station/substation facility contains three holding cells. Suspects at this facility remain at the site for generally less than two hours. Suspects are then transported to the main jail where they are booked. No meals are provided at this facility.

Solvang/Santa Ynez Valley

The Sheriff's Department performs the municipal police function under contract for the City of Solvang as well as providing coverage for the unincorporated areas of the Santa Ynez Valley from its Solvang substation. In addition to handling police functions, this facility accommodates other municipal functions for the City of Solvang. The station has no detention facilities.


The Sheriff's Department performs the municipal police function under contract for the City of Buellton. The facility serves primarily as an administrative control point through a staffer who handles communications. The facility has no detention capability.


Finding #1:

At the main jail, medical referrals for serious medical conditions are frequently delayed or left unresolved.

Recommendation #1:

The Sheriff should review the history of referral requests to the medical services provider and take appropriate action if necessary to ensure that inmates are diagnosed and referred to appropriate medical facilities in a timely manner.

Finding #2:

Overcrowding continues at jail facilities.

Recommendation #2:

The Board of Supervisors should continue to aggressively pursue funding for additional jail facilities.

Finding #3:

The computer system at the New Cuyama substation is not connected to the Sheriff Department’s main computer.

Recommendation #3:

The Sheriff should provide resources to immediately connect the New Cuyama substation to the main computer network.


The Inmate Services Program should be applauded for its ongoing efforts to bring benefits to the inmate population. The benefits yielded by this program are at no cost to the taxpayer.


Board of Supervisors

Finding 2

Recommendation 2

Sheriff’s Department

Findings 1, 3

Recommendations 1, 3


Although the degree may vary, what all municipal police departments in Santa Barbara County have in common is a lack of space. Whether the subject is Santa Barbara or Santa Maria, Guadalupe or Lompoc, police facilities have all been in place for a number of years and the cities have grown substantially in the intervening years since the facilities were constructed. In addition, the national focus on controlling the growth of crime has prompted growth in police activity to outpace population growth in every community.

One final element has contributed to government facility shortcomings. Modifications in taxation policies beginning about twenty years ago have made major changes in the financing of local police activities. Previously, government facilities and law-enforcement activities were financed largely through local property-tax revenues and bond issues. Restrictions on property-tax increases and bond passage requirements have shifted funding sources from local funding to state and federal grant revenues. The problem is that grant funds are normally targeted to specific programs and purposes, which do not usually include facility construction. And the decrease in local revenue sources has made it more difficult for local government to find funding for facility expansion.

Santa Maria Police Department

The facility housing the Santa Maria Police Department is not large, but the space has been used with maximum efficiency. Santa Maria maintains a temporary holding facility for arrest suspects for up to two hours. If the need for temporary holding of suspects exceeds the single available cell, police officers can avail themselves of a long metal bar affixed to an outside corridor wall for handcuffing detained suspects. It is also used when an interviewing officer is required to temporarily suspend the interview process.

A portion of the basement currently utilized for the storage of department records creates a real safety hazard. Because of the resulting narrowness of the corridor, the fire exit passage is restricted.

Guadalupe Police Department

The Guadalupe Police Department is headquartered in an older building within the city. Significant interior renovation, including upgrading of its single holding cell, has occurred in order to bring this facility into compliance with building and safety codes. Because limited space places obvious constraints on the ability of staff to function, many police functions are conducted off site. While preliminary processing can be conducted at the station, booking is almost always performed at the Sheriff's holding facility in Orcutt.

The Grand Jury observed that the staff of this police department exhibited enthusiasm for their jobs and exemplary dedication to serving the community.

Lompoc Police Department

The Lompoc Police Department is headquartered next to several County offices: the Superior Court, the Probation Department, the Public Defender, the District Attorney and the Sheriff.

Space is an issue. Lompoc is a growing area and each year the department must provide services for an increased population.

The jail cell area is well maintained and there is an emphasis on cleanliness throughout. The configuration of cells makes it easy to separate the men from the women. The same approach can be used to separate gang members or suspected co-conspirators. A two-cell section of the jail gets daily use by the Sheriff's Department as a holding facility for county jail detainees making appearances in Lompoc Superior Court.

The Lompoc Police Department utilizes a variety of detention aids to enhance its service capabilities. One example is a new DUI trailer, which allows suspected persons to be interviewed off the street without going immediately to the police facility.

Santa Barbara Police Department

The Santa Barbara Police Department is currently housed in a facility that was originally built in 1959. This structure was designed to accommodate 90 employees and has been expanded as the staff increased. Today, this facility houses 300 staff members with no additional space for expansion.

The detention area is comprised of two cells and three interview rooms. The cells at the facility are not designed for long-term detention. Although an initial interview and basic booking data may be collected on site, persons detained for any length of time are taken to the county jail facility.

The department maintains a separate "sobering center" facility away from the police station. This facility serves to divert persons who are intoxicated in public from detention in a jail-type environment and is staffed with volunteers. Placement in the sobering center provides time for intoxicated individuals to become sober but does not absolve them from being charged with public intoxication. This facility is cost-effective because it eliminates booking costs and reduces officer time required to handle such cases.


Finding #1:

All municipal police departments in Santa Barbara County lack space.

Recommendation #1:

All municipal jurisdictions should take action to identify long-term mechanisms to alleviate overcrowding of police facilities.

Finding #2:

The Santa Maria Police Department temporarily restrains suspects using an iron railing installed in a corridor at the station.

Recommendation #2:

The Santa Maria Police Department should evaluate alternative methods of restraining individuals.

Finding #3:

The Santa Maria Police Department stores critical files in the basement of the police station where it obstructs a fire exit.

Recommendation #3:

The Santa Maria Police Department should remove all records stored in the basement to a more appropriate location.


The Guadalupe Police Department is to be complimented on its ability to maintain high profile community protection with limited funding.


Guadalupe City Council

Finding 1

Recommendation 1

Lompoc City Council

Finding 1

Recommendation 1

Santa Barbara City Council

Finding 1

Recommendation 1

Santa Maria City Council

Finding 1

Recommendation 1

Santa Maria Police Department

Findings 2, 3

Recommendations 2, 3