All county supervisors expressed sadness and hesitation Tuesday at having to direct staff to proceed with the necessary steps to cease operations at Bar-O Boys Ranch as a juvenile detention facility. D
The decision came after a three-month period granted by the board that would allow the Probation Department time to partner with local tribes to bring the population of the ranch up, thereby bringing extra revenue to the ranch to avoid a deficit.
Chief Probation Officer Lonnie Reyman’s report said the despite a wide outreach program, brochure and meetings with chiefs from many northern California probation departments, he had received no referrals or inquiries. He said he had also met with Tribal Court Judge Abby Abinant about the possibility of referring tribal youth into Bar-O. He said the original indication was that funding may be found for up to two referrals, but questioned whether long-term-funding could continue.
“After conversations throughout the week, Judge Abinanti determined that as our goals are aligned but the methodology of using the ranch in its current custodial status is not, it would be best to look at other alternatives,” Reyman’s report stated.
A short discussion ensued regarding reevaluating the mission of the ranch and possibly using it for wards of a lower-level of criminality. Reyman said he did not wish to essentially put kids in a custodial facility if they do not need to be there.
Under public comment, Kent Burrow said that while it was hoped the population could be increased, the reality is that only three wards remain.
Paul Dillard, chair of the Juvenile Justice Commission, recalled the efforts that have been made. Dillard suggested that Abinanti could secure juvenile justice money for a facility similar to Log Cabin Ranch School in the Bay Area, but was told it would take about six years to create. Dillard suggested that two supervisors sit down with the judge and Reyman to look at potential solutions.
“If we can’t do it, I’ll be the first to throw in the towel,” he said.
Supervisor Bob Berkowitz said as a former school board member who has worked with staff and kids at the ranch, if he had to vote to remove Bar-O from the county, it will be the saddest day of his career.
Supervisor Roger Gitlin, a retired juvenile court school teacher, said while no one doubts the good work done by the ranch, the county is faced with a deficit that cannot be ignored. He said the decreasing populations are a statewide problem created by a new model of how the state deals with juvenile corrections.
Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen said the day’s discussions were the same as those three months ago. He said delaying the decision affects Del Norte County, not the counties that typically send wards and that the tribe cannot be expected to fund the entire ranch.
Board Chair Chris Howard said that while he would like to see the ranch remain open, it would be at the expense of other programs in the General Fund budget. He said he is sorry the discussions had reached the point of potentially terminating operations at the ranch.
The board did not take formal action, but, by consensus, directed staff to to proceed with the necessary steps to cease operations at Bar-O. County CAO Jay Sarina said he and Reyman will report back with regard to any formal actions needed by the board.