A 50-year-old troubled-youth ranch is getting a $27 million upgrade, about half funded by a state grant and the rest by Santa Clara County.
The William F. James Boys Ranch in Morgan Hill will jump in size from 84 to 108 beds and include a new gym, kitchen and 30,000-square-foot housing facility. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider a list of recommendations related to the project, which is due for completion in 2017.
But since starting construction, the cost has run up higher than original estimates. To move forward, the county needs an additional $4.1 million more, partly because of pricier-than-expected consulting, labor and materials costs.
Physical changes to the detention facility for youth aged 15½ to 18 come eight years after a fundamental shift in focus, too. For decades, the ranch held a heavy-handed correctional approach that emphasized behavioral regulation, resulting in more violence, lawsuits, alleged civil rights violations, recidivism and redirecting youth to state-run correctional facilities.
In 2004, after voters passed a measure that switched purview of juvenile justice from the courts to the county, supervisors put Chief Probation Officer Sheila E. Mitchell in charge. The new director’s philosophy favored a therapeutic approach, expanding capacity for high-needs teens, offering more mental health help and coming up with individualized post-release plans. It provided tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment, high school classes and intensive therapy to teach anti-criminal thinking, victim awareness and anger management.
Even before this in-progress state-funded remodeling, she turned the prison-style warren into a more home-like setting.
“When Mitchell arrived here … the probation department was in complete disarray,” Andre Chapman, CEO of youth nonprofit Unity Care wrote for the Mercury News upon her departure. “It operated using a top-down, good-ol’-boy philosophy that resulted in a culture of punitive practices, operating more like an adult prison with emphasis on punishment versus rehabilitation and treatment.”
Mitchell’s reforms worked. Within a year of enacting them in 2006, reported violations fell 63 percent and new arrests by half. The ranch, which once channeled more than 100 youth a year to Juvenile Hall, sent just one in 2013.
Mitchell retired last fall. Her deputy chief Karen Fletcher stepped up as acting chief until the county appoints a replacement.
- Supervisors will vote whether to refinance $30 million in bond debt that paid for public housing for seniors. On Lok Community Housing on Stockton Road in San Jose houses low-income elderly clients (side note: “On Lok” means “peaceful, happy abode” in Cantonese).
- Operating a small business development center will cost the county $290,000 through 2016.
- A children’s mental health organization owes the county $180,000 because of an overpayment.
- Could be that in the near future, local restaurants will have to post their health grades in the window for consumers to see. If supervisors OK the plan, the color-coded placards would indicate whether the place passed inspections (green), passed with some conditions (yellow) or failed outright (red).
- A near-century-old locomotive donated to the county may become a moving exhibit, if the supervisors approve $50,000 in funding to restore the engine.
- The county’s federal lobbyist will present its year-end report, which you can preview here.
- The county will attempt to resolve old disputes before moving forward with a controversial plan to offer sheriff’s deputies to beef up an understaffed San Jose Police Department.
- The county’s still in the process of surveying local law enforcement agencies about how they respond to hate crimes. The project was struck up in response to the hate crimes that allegedly happened at San Jose State University last fall.
- KTVU Channel 2 will get $300,000 from the county for a program to promote the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and meet an Affordable Care Act objective of creating a healthier community.
- The county’s eyeing a $400,000 grant that would pay for housing and substance abuse treatment for some chronically homeless people.
- Some public trails and an equestrian campground are in need of some names, so a subcommittee met last month and came up with some suggestions.
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meet
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001