The County Voice

County Government Works: Breaking the Cycle in San Benito

San Benito County Chief Probation Officer Brent Cardall has something to be proud of. For the past two years, his department has been honored by CSAC for their innovative programs. In 2009, it was the County’s Juvenile Hall Orientation Video that garnered statewide honors; this past year, the Night Reporting Center  was the recipient of a CSAC Challenge Award. 

During County Government Month in April, CSAC is presenting blogs and short video features on 14 award-winning programs from 10 counties that demonstrate effective, original and cost-conscious ways counties are serving their citizens.  

San Benito County Chief Probation Officer Brent Cardall has something to be proud of. For the past two years, his department has been honored by CSAC for their innovative programs. In 2009, it was the County’s Juvenile Hall Orientation Video that garnered statewide honors; this past year, the Night Reporting Center  was the recipient of a CSAC Challenge Award. 

Two top awards in two years; yes, that’s something to be proud of. No wonder Brent Cardall’s face lights up when he talks about the emphasis his staff puts on innovation and exploring new ways to provide vital services. 

Case in point: the Night Reporting Center – a cost-free collaboration between the Probation Department, faith-based organizations and volunteers that provides a one-stop center for verticallogo-Use-this-Version3-300x244.jpg probationers. The foundation of this program is a Community Review Board, which consists of San Benito County residents; the board addresses minor violations committed by probationers. Board members come from a many walks of life – teacher, police officer, farmer…  But they have one thing in common: mentoring those who need their insight and assistance. 

“A lot of these clients have never had mentors or people that care about them in their lives,” Cardall says, “When they see the that community really cares about them, they have a desire to show them that they are willing to change and be productive citizens in our community.”

Review board member Mike Carter is a former teacher and is proud to serve on the review board. He talks about the value of giving back to the community and helping to set juvenile probationers on the right path. Rather than talking “at” a probationer, the review board works “with” the individual to help him. The probationer may be required to develop a resume and job hunt, or to write a report on a specific subject. It’s about breaking the cycle and keeping people out of Juvenile Hall or jail. It’s about getting to these juveniles or young adults before it’s too late. 

Education is a key component of the Night Reporting Center. The Abuelos Program provides culture and family information to juveniles. Parenting classes give guidance on everything from positive parenting techniques to the proper use of a child car seat. It’s about helping individuals see the value – and the pathway – to becoming contributing members of the community. “This program changes behavior,” Cardall explains. “It changes lives.”  Now that is definitely something to be proud of. 

Congratulations to San Benito County for showing that “county government works.” To review a video of this program, click here. 

County Government works, which is why Californians prefer to have programs and services managed and operated at the local level.  The county programs featured by CSAC during County Government Month are 2010 CSAC Challenge Award recipients. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Call for Entries for the 2011 CSAC Challenge Awards is being distributed this month.

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