During Shelter-in-Place Orders, How are the Humboldt County Probation Department and Division of Adult Parole Operations Continuing to Do Their Jobs?
The Humboldt County Probation Department and Eureka’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) office have modified their operations to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 and restricted their in-person contact. The probation department has even accelerated placements of people detained in the jail into residential substance use disorder treatment to reduce the jail population. Alameda, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego counties have also released low-level offenders to make more room in their facilities.
Sean Brenneman, the Chief Probation Office for the Humboldt County Probation Department, said the offices on Harrison Avenue and H Street are closed to the public but have essential staff working out of them. Services are continuing during the shelter-in-place but interviews are being conducted by telephone or video conference when possible.
The probation department serves as investigators for both the court in adult criminal matters and juvenile delinquency issues. Brenneman said there are 1,410 adults under probation supervision in the county and about 100 youth under some form of juvenile probation.
“We are currently screening youth presented for booking for symptoms of the virus,” Brenneman said. “Symptomatic youth are not booked into the hall and are referred for medical treatment and clearance.”
For adults and youth placed under probation supervision, Brenneman said they are conducting all probation contacts by telephone. He said any persons newly granted probation, persons being released from prison to county supervision, and persons posing an active risk to the community will be seen in person.
“We are filing violations of probation for new criminal allegations and absconding from supervision but are limiting technical violations to those that pose a public safety risk,” Brenneman said.
At this time all resources and services provided by probation remain in place. Brenneman said there are some resources to aid in housing and access to treatment for those on probation but because their referrals are to community providers they have varying responses to the shelter-in-place order.
For those who are homeless and on probation, Brenneman said they are not exempt from reporting in but probation is understanding of their barriers. He said most supervised homeless have phones and that the probation department received phones as part of collaborative grant with Economic Development to distribute to people on supervision without phones
“We are in the process of putting together our plans around how the telephone reporting and contacts will be conducted,” Brenneman said. “ It should be in place by mid-week. With any new process, there will be iterations on the plan as we learn about barriers and issues to getting the work done. I am confident we will be able to keep in touch with the people we supervise and help them through this stressful time.”
Dana Simas, Press Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), declined our request for an interview but said they were working on addressing this evolving situation in real-time and need to focus their staff on adjusting to this unprecedented situation. She said they are extremely busy working through their new protocol implementations and communicating with their population. Eureka’s Division of Adult Parol Operations operates under CDCR and according to them there are approximately 244 people on active parole in Humboldt County.
According to their website, they have made operational changes to support both staff and individuals under their care and supervision. The website states that in an effort
….to minimize potential impact from COVID-19, the following steps will be taken immediately:
- All lobby traffic will be suspended except for initial parole interviews and emergencies.
- Routinely scheduled, non-essential office visits shall be avoided at this time.
- Parolees should contact their parole agent by phone for guidance on whether to come in.
- Office visits for those age 65 and older and with chronic medical conditions shall be suspended immediately.
- No Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees to DAPO supervision will take place for at least 30 days.
- Work-related travel for staff that uses commercial transportation (i.e. air, train, etc.) will be limited to essential travel for operational needs and must be approved by the staff member’s hiring authority.
- In-person training may be postponed to a later date, modified, or waived as deemed appropriate to assist with complying with guidance to limit large groups and social distancing.