Updated: Jan 21, 2022
Thanks to our friends at Decarcerate Sacramento for writing up this piece!
On 12/14 Decarcerate Sacramento mobilized voices to the Board of Supervisors to demand that the Board prioritize funding for community-led and holistic services in the county’s efforts to reduce the Jail population.
Item 25 continued the funding of a FAILING pre-trial program run by the Sacramento County Probation Department.
Callers asked to reject that funding and instead called for an investment of $5 million dollars into the Public Defender’s Pre-Trial Support Program, that connects people incarcerated pre-trial to housing, mental health navigation, and bus passes to get them to and from services and court.
These services help keep people out of jail.
Item 27 allocated funding for additional social workers, law students, and bus passes for the Public Defender’s pretrial program. This item showed us that the Courts want to contract with the PD’s office to begin to step people off of Probation’s pilot and enter them into the Public Defenders Pretrial Support Program to receive services. By admission of the courts, they are seeing people stay on Probation’s pretrial supervision too long, and are otherwise not getting the services they need to be successful.
Decarcerate Sacramento sounded the alarm back in 2019, when the Probation Department first received funding for their pre-trial program, arguing that law enforcement agencies are not the appropriate provider of “services,” especially for people awaiting trial who are presumed innocent. On Tuesday, the public called out the Probation Department’s track record of broken promises, lack of transparency, and the fact that the Probation Department spent 84% of their first $9Million pilot funding for “pretrial services” on armed officers.
To make matters worse, Probation has yet to disperse the $450,000 they guaranteed to community-based organizations so that they could provide their own critical services.
*Probation Chief Marlon Yarber pictured
The Board accepted the funds from item 25, Supervisor Don Notolli heard these concerns, and asked that the positions created for the Public Defenders be made permanent in the next funding cycle, as opposed to just receiving temporary grant money from the courts. Even though he asked Probation Chief Marlon Yarber about the efforts to contract with community organizations, he did not go far enough to ask why after three years, Probation is only just beginning the process of getting these funds out to the community.
Supervisor Rich Desmond seconded Don Notolli’s call to make these positions permanent but remained on the side of Probation, calling both programs a success and the role of Probation’s surveillance and monitoring “fundamental.” This isn’t surprising given his law enforcement background and campaign contributions from the Sacramento County Probation Association.
Supervisors continued on to ask about the community’s concerns on item 27, as the community pointed out that this funding was for social workers for the Public Defender’s pretrial program and asked to have the misleading language about Probation removed from the title (item 27 pictured below w/probation language highlighted).
Chief of Probation, Marlon Yarber, quickly took credit for the grant, even though the programs remain separate and Probation’s program does not involve any social workers or real services that help people. Nottoli asked interim Chief Public Defender Amanda Benson to clarify, and while she stressed that these programs are separate, Probation’s name was not removed from the item.
There were likely powerful forces at play behind the scenes to ensure that Probation continues to hold power over pretrial, even though we know that law enforcement should not be involved in pretrial services, and their program is failing our community.
After Tuesday, the stage has been set to begin to talk about the fundamental differences of our two, very different, pretrial programs in Sacramento County, as the fight for investment in community-based pretrial services that prioritize care, not officers, continues.