homeless_4 (copy)

In August 2018, a man bikes past two apparently homeless people.

Kern County’s plan to reduce homelessness by jailing low-level offenders has raised concern among mental health experts who say the tactic will do more harm than good.

Meanwhile, financing talks between county officials and the city of Bakersfield have stalled after cost estimates skyrocketed, delaying the plan’s implementation.

The county had hoped the city would help pay for the hiring of detention deputies needed to guard the extra jail beds that would be used as part of the plan. However, the city balked after the county’s initial estimate of $1.6 million ballooned to more than $6 million.

While the city still expects to contribute funding for the project, the heavy price tag could become an issue.

“We’re not backing away from the deal,” said city spokesman Joe Conroy. “We just want to see a little bit more of what’s being done, and what’s being asked of the city.”

Deputy District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said costs were still being worked out, and reiterated county law enforcement agencies were dedicated to making the new strategy work.

District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, along with Sheriff Donny Youngblood, first proposed the plan to the Board of Supervisors in September, claiming a criminal element had inserted itself into Bakersfield’s homeless population, and the only way to deal with it was to force people into prison.

And even if the plan did cost $6 million, it would be worth it, Kinzel said.

“The city and county have combined budgets exceeding $3 billion,” he wrote in an email. “If dedicating less than 0.2 percent of the combined budgets of the city and county helps to give our police back the ability to actually enforce the law, combat addiction, and provide accountability for repeat offenders, then it will be money well spent.”

The county says the plan specifically targets homeless individuals who repeatedly violate criminal law, yet are given citations instead of sentences.

After Proposition 47 passed in 2014, crimes like possession of heroin and methamphetamine, along with stealing less than $950 worth of property, went from felonies to misdemeanors.

A lack of available jail beds means those caught for misdemeanors don’t see time behind bars. They might not even go before a judge if they are given a ticket with a promise to show up in court.

Because the problem is they never do show up, according to local law enforcement, and victimize Bakersfield residents over and over.

But adding more deputies and stuffing more people into jail cells are not the correct tactics for dealing with a rise in homelessness, say two board members of Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.

Deborah Fabos and Fawn Kennedy Dessy, who both belong to the Mental Health Collaborative of Kern County, recently sent a letter to supervisors urging them not to go forward with the proposal.

They say the money would be better spent on addiction and mental health treatment facilities that are better equipped than the police to handle mental health problems associated with homelessness.

Especially troubling to the pair is the ability of law enforcement to issue jail sentences for infractions like trespassing, which could be delivered even to first-time offenders.

“This idea of criminalizing them, and building jails, and hiring people to keep them in cages, that is just so outdated and inhumane,” Fabos said. “And it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work.”

Her concerns echo statements made in state and national media. Everyone from the Los Angeles Times to NPR has published pieces detailing the plan, often saying it “flies in the face” of criminal justice reforms.

“One of our people picked it up in L.A., and they picked it up in Virginia where a treatment advocacy center is at, and they’re like, ‘what the hell is happening in Bakersfield,’” Kennedy Dessy said. “It’s like we’re taking a more archaic, Dark Ages approach by putting people in jail.”

Kern County officials, however, are not quite as bleak.

They see the new proposal as another piece in the complex puzzle of fighting the county’s homeless crisis.

“I think that everyone is looking at different options,” Kinzel said. “We’re not saying that our solution is the sole answer to the problem that is effecting the community. Do we need more housing? I think that yes we do. But by providing more services, without addressing the issue of criminality, we think they go hand in hand.”

It is unclear when county officials will bring the matter before the Board of Supervisors. If approved, deputies will need to be hired before it will go into effect.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(49) comments


90%of homeless people aren't mentally I'll because they were born that way... They are mentally I'll because of drugs. If they can push a 900 pound shopping cart down the street in the middle of summer, then they can work. People give them too much credit. Sure build more housing rehabilitation centers....they would still have to willfully stay there in which we all know they won't because being homeless there are no rules for them to follow as there would be at a center of some sort. a lot of them do commit crimes. And thanks to our fantastic governor who made it a slap on the wrist to posses drugs and get caught stealing. This state has gone downhill It should be a crime to be homeless. People who are homeless not by choice don't have the disgusting habits that all these other nasty people have. And quite frankly they try to stay out of publics eye. Something needs to be done with these people. Stop feeling sorry for the ones who stand on corners and beg for money. They probably get paid more than a hard working citizen. It used to be against the law to use the restroom on the side of a public street.... Now they are doing it in front of someone's house on their sidewalk in riverlakes . Something needs to be done......drugs should have never got taken down from a felony. It's like they want people to do drugs, maybe so the Dems can gain more control. Of course they'll vote for that! Terrible state we live in.Sometimes jail does help people. Its all about the person though. If they don't want the help then no matter what you force them to do they will eventually end up back in the same position as they were before . Some people have also given up in life and dont care . It's crazy why they are all being shipped here. And where did they all of a sudden come from. It never used to be this bad of a problem. Crazy

She Dee

Golly gosh tamibear21...you must have had a very cushy upbringing to think as you do. The problem is a LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING...and people who have never seen the other side of the coin.


Even the best drug treatment programs do not work if the person being treated does not go into it with a true intent to quit. That is a fact. Until this state and country starts getting serious about drug and mental health treatments we cannot allow criminal activity from individuals who refuse to get help to continue.

Going to jail may change some, which is the intent behind incarceration. As for Switzerland, their drug program is better but they are having serious problems with drugs and criminal activity these days. They are trying to live off their laurels from their ground breaking heroin treatment philosophies that started in the 80’s. Now they have a serious foreigner problem(immigration), crime has increased dramatically in recent years, and their prison/jail population has increased 50% in the past 5 years. Plus programs instituted in a small country of 8.5 million people is a lot easier to implement and monitor than in one that has 330 million. I have said before that we need to fund better treatment programs in our state and country. But until people stop complaining about our poor drug treatment philosophy and actually do something, we can’t let criminal activity go unpunished from drug addicts who refuse to get help.

Get the facts straight before you write about something that you obviously know little about. Have a nice day


Treatment works done correctly.

Kern county is decades behind in the treatment of addiction and mental health.

The United States is 10-15 years behind.

We can not arrest or incarcerate our way out of this.

How much was wasted on a jail/prison already?

The costs will balloon way past that $9 million.

Housing, treatment, employment.

Switzerland, a very conservative country, has an excellent program in place.

Do you research.

Do not speak from ignorance.


They are not talking about putting poor people in jail because, “they don’t like the visual and/or emotional blight”. What a ridiculous statement. They are only talking about putting people in jail who commit a crime(s).

Those that that are homeless because of mental health issues absolutely need help, but this state’s current and past administrations have talked a good game about providing MH care to indigent people, but still have done almost nothing meaningful in this area. So some individuals with serious MH issues that commit a crime and are convicted end up going to the only long term involuntary MH institutions available, the jails and prisons. A number of these individuals are those that have MH issues and regularly self medicate with illegal drugs(which includes alcohol). Even when these particular individuals get MH care they are often not handled properly by MH professionals. Most do not care about treating drug addiction because all they really want to deal with is MH issues. This is a major failing with many MH organizations and individual professionals. Either these particular homeless people get good care or bad, but ultimately after a relatively short period of time these poor souls go back out into the community. This terrible cycle continues until the ultimate end, in many cases. I had a close family member who lived this story, so I know what I am talking about.

Most of the rest of the homeless are drug addicts who may or may not have a true desire to quit. Either way I fail to see why a drug addict who commits a crime should be given a stay out of jail free card. If you commit a crime and are convicted you should have to do the time. Drug programs, forced or otherwise, do not work if people don’t go into them truly wanting to quit. Oh and by the way, they do have drug programs in jails and prisons, so if an inmate really wants to quit they can get help.


sounds like the folks running the show have implemented another quick fix scheme that's doom to fail...what again was the cost benefit analysis for this plan to incarcerate the homeless?....


Let me ask Cooper how many are truly homeless or is it just a life style choice? In Ken County you CANNOT get competent mental health treatment so.....what are you going to do with them!


Mental illnesss is not a lifestyle choice! This is the point why are we spending 6 million dollars on a revolving door and not spending the money to actually help people get better. I am fine with forced treatment. We obviously need to force those gravelly mentally ill on the streets into treatment. It is not humane to leave them out their suffering. Why are we ok with forcing misdeamoner offenses to be locked up for a year but not forcing gravelly mentally ill into treatment? Why is it ok to use tax payer money on one but not the other? I agree they need to be off the streets. I appreciate that. But the treatment of just being treated as an inmate vs. intensive therapy and recovery services should be outlined and funded.


Agreed competent mental health services are hard to come by. Right now if you are in crisis and need to see a psychiatrist it’s about a 6 week wait. It takes weeks to see a counselor. This is the point we need money for Kern County behavioral health and rehabilitation devices more than we need to lock up misdeamoner offenders. I understand we need to do something. But is this the answer? I feel a collab between Youngblood Zimmerman and the director of behavioral health should work on this together.

She Dee

Only in the land of the free are we incarcerated. Goodbye freedom. Hello cellie. Way to go KC....kick a person while they're down & don't forget to shoot em in the back, just for the sake of the good ole boys system.


Ok. Basic math. Basic physics. Basic common sense. When you put any Sheriff & any District Attorney in a room to find a solution to any problem, the answer, 100% of the time, is going to be arrest & prosecute. More jails & more prosecutions raise their department budgets, and consequently, their political power levels. Ummmm. Who didn’t see this “solution” coming from that pair? It’s their nature. It’s like tossing a raw steak into a starving lion’s den. Their feasting on the public trough—-again—was inevitable. Public Department heads have one mentality and one agenda. Control & Power. That’s why when Homeless Coalition got multi-million dollar start funding—BOOM— then, and only then, the County and City decided to join forces to tackle homeless issue. Lol. First order of biz at Board was request for access to those funds to the tune of hiring a Director at six figures per year and a couple of well-paid “assistants”. They’ll be back very soon “requesting” funding increase. Translation: let us hire some of your friends and our friends at an egregious salary level. Bye-bye actual services for the homeless. The $ gets sucked up by “administrative” costs. Lol. Peanuts left over for actual help for the needy.


I love and work in the highest homeless population in town. I’m directly affected by these issues. But we have to have a common sense and viable solution not a band aid and throwing money away at a revolving door that does nothing to actually help people get pulled out of desperate situations. I appreciate the sheriff and d a addressing this very real and difficult issue. We need real solutions and both should be working directly with kern county behavioral health and addiction services director to come up with a viable and humane plan.


Interesting dichotomy-filled report (story?) here. And the comments following seem as duplicitous in fact and fancy. The law says one thing but is always subject to whimsy and change: https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99077/reclassified_state_drug_law_reforms_to_reduce_felony_convictions_and_increase_second_chances.pdf)

. . . and then again, we always seem to have support groups 'cleaning up' the mess (feces plus) led by and voiced on radio and TV by a mayor:



If the results of such 'compassion' are ineffective . . . THE LAW MUST PREVAIL . . . !

And then we hear stories of contrasting solutions:

(as Steve said in "The Sand Pebbles" . . . " WELL . . . 'DO' SOMETHING . . . !")




Donny, make up their minds for them. ("The-laws-are-on-the=books.")

That's when they can get some "HELP . . .I NEED . . . (where and when it all started) . . . !



Let’s take that extra 5mil. to build housing for the homeless 20x20 with a small bathroom and kitchen. Hiring one or two people to keep the outside area clean. We then can have the homeless to pay direct deposit from there disabled checks for the cost to keep the area clean like $100 or 5th of what they get.

She Dee

@Twinal- Once upon a time these were called SRO's. Means Single Room Occupancy. In fact, the TEGELER is just that. Each room has bathroom, a kitchen sink, a microwave & a small refrigerator. Well, they did when I lived there 10 years ago. My disability check at the time was apx $900.00 a month & my rent was $450.00. It took me 5 years to get my SSDI approved. Many of the street people don't get benefits these days. That's why so many have turned to drugs as a coping mechanism. It's a slippery slope & if a person cannot pay their rent, taking it won't instill a sense of "normalcy" that is required to get back to being a citizen who cares about their surroundings. Slavery was abolished a long time ago. No one can take money from my checks. I have to dole it out myself until I get a mental health tag attached to my physically disabled status. That means I have to go in voluntarily for an eval or be committed after doing an act that deems me unsafe to myself or the public. Can you see what's really happening here??? It's clear to me. I do agree that a lot can be built with $5 million bucks. A tiny home "village" like the one they have in Austin Texas, perhaps?


Make sure to put them on probation or parole after incarcerating them. I worked with that population for quite awhile, and the resources available to them while under law enforcement watch far exceeded what they had available once they were set loose to fend for themselves.


Absolutely agree to keep them under services to help monitor their situations.

She Dee

@Copper- The federal government (SSA) does monitor a person once they are approved for SSI/SSDI. That can take up to 5 years or more in some cases. The local Social Services should not have to monitor any of their clients unless a fraud complaint has been filed. So, is this the reason why the mental health card is being used? To control & manipulate?


No to save lives.

She Dee

@Copper- This still sounds like a form of forced manipulation to me.


And we’re doing this because we accidentally built a jail that we did not need and now you want the poor homeless people to pay the price for low level crimes which will include nothing more than marijuana and possibly trespassing shame on Kern County shame on violating our California rights drain the swamp


I have a granddaughter who is a drug addict and has been on and off the streets for a few years. Jail is the only thing that MIGHT change her mind one being a drug addict. The tickets they get for their various criminal activity does absolutely nothing other than making a balance for repayment with the county, which they will probably never pay because most don’t have a job. Until you’ve been involved in this life you shouldn’t respond. Jailing them is the best thing to happen.


Has your granddaughter had a mental health evaluation? Have her parents worked with social workers and a judge to have her placed under Laura’s Law?


a dog feces reply! Not in this town will they help you!!!!


I can respond because I am a parent who has a child with behavioral health issues , diagnosed schizo affective disorder . It took 36 phone calls to 911 , 4 arrests for musdeamoner offenses , 4 psych hospitalization over 3 years before he was placed under Laura’s Law and given a choice , do what the social worker and Psych say or go to jail. He was conserved for 30 days where he received treatment for his mental illness in a hospital then to halfway house at FREISe for another 30 days then to a board and care for 18 months. The drugs were a secondary issue to the underlying mental health issue. The drugs were to self medicate and numb the psychosis and GL that was going on his head. Do Not ever attempt to tell me I can’t respond I have walked through HL and back to pull my son out of it and never ever gave up on him. I joined NAMI went to classes , counseling, support group for years to know how to navigate and broken system that does nothing but traumatize and push these people who need help deeper into their illness. If he was jailed for a year instead of being placed into treatment facilities he would not be doing as god as he is now. Jail is not the answer. The jail should be turned into a rehab center and ran as one.

She Dee

@Memory- I know you think this MIGHT help your granddaughter, but I can tell you that it MIGHT also hurt her in many ways that you have no knowledge of. It could ruin her life in ways you cannot imagine & that means that you will get sucked into the rabbit hole that she is trying to shield you from. Cut her loose & let her go so she can deal with her own life issues. That tough love. It's not easy to do. Jail most likely will put her in with a much more sinister group of humans.


PTSD from being incarcerated to start.


We desperately need funding for more programs like the FREISe House , Jason’s retreat, and board and care for the mentally I’ll. What the HL


How is this even a conversation? Wt f is wrong with you people? We need mental health and addiction services funded FIRST! We are going to force people into jail and that’s ok but we are not forcing people into treatment facilities where they can actually RECOVER and get better. Dumping millions a year into a revolving door of jail for misdeamoners does ZERO to actually stop the cycle . Every single mental health professional has to stand up and shout NO’

Mike Hunt

I don’t know any tax paying , concerned citizens complaining about removing dangerous street people from our neighborhoods. My family and friends are more important than the “ rights” of the drug addicted, dangerous criminals invading our community. If the drug addicts are that important to you , it’s time to make it your own private mission.


They are not talking about “dangerous” criminals. They are taking about people who need mental health treatment and addiction recovery.


In the Petri dish experiment thing we call civilization, it’s probably a good thing there is a group of taxpayers who endorse jailing poor people, whether morally or because they don’t like the visual and/or emotional blight. Regrettably, the experience befalls those individuals ensnared.


Why don't you take your bleeding heart and invite several of the "homeless" into your home? I'm sure they would fit right in with you and your family!


I have actually had at least 4 homeless with Mother’s one with 5 children who stayed temporarily in my home until they could get back on their feet.


How many homeless people have you helped?


Good for you! Hahahahahahahaahahaha


Very well said Getreal2 this targets the poor who don’t have mommies and daddies who can send them to private recovery centers .


Glad Bakodpn thinks it’s funny to help people or laugh at others misfortine

Inconvenient Truth

Also, Trespassing is a MISDEMEANOR (see California Penal Code section 600, et seq.)


Trespassing. What a great enforcement tool. You got nowhere to stay? Well you can’t stay here. ===>. Off to Jail for You.

Inconvenient Truth

The bias of the Bakersfield Canadian is manifestly evident with such outrageously false headlines such as this one.

Nobody,.. I repeat, NOBODY in law enforcement is proposing to jail homeless persons.

They are proposing to resurrect Prop-36 (the successful drug treatment program killed by AB-109 and Prop-47), and get criminals who use drugs and commit property crimes off the street and into drug treatment.

Who has more compassion: the person who wants to consign addicts to living in filth on the streets, or the person who wants to force them into treatment (which, being addicts, they would never voluntarily seek on their own)?


True and on point my friend.


Where do they talk about putting them into drug treatment? And how much are they going to spend on hat versus CO “s to babysit?


So how much money is going to be spent on drug counselors vs. CO”s? Will the facility be run like a drug rehabilitation center or just a jail ? Again how is this not targeting the mentally ill and the poor? What about Laura’s Law? Why aren’t the offenders given a choice probation with participation in behavioral health programs vs jail? Will their be job training or job placement opportunities so when they are released they have some type of safety net and hope or are they thrown back to the streets?


How much money is going to be spent on counselors and psych s to come in and help them? How many counselors per inmate? How many times a week or daily therapy sessions will be given? How much exactly will be allocated for these services and how often? What exactly is the plan? Where’s that information?

Comment deleted.

Really? Where’s the statement from Youngblood stating drug rehab? Haven’t seen it once.

Inconvenient Truth

I don’t usually respond to trolls, but since you asked:





How’s that, for starters?

In every single link above, Sheriff Youngblood says the purpose of locking-up drug offenders is to provide them with treatment.


An 'inconvenient truth' has always been the reality . . . !


Enough already. Sheeeesh. The blind leading the blind. Is my work never gone???!!

You voted to close the mental health facilities a handful of years ago. Notice anything that happened as a result? Ummm... yeah. The homeless population increased every year as the population increased. Duh. Tightwad, near-sighted greedy budget coveting perps n “civic leaders” in Cali sure got that all wrong. Ya think? Lol. Sure there are a percentage that are just flat out meth heads n heroin junkies. But first order of biz to solve the puzzle is separating the mentally ill from the drug savages. Why? Because the former is not homeless by choice. The latter let partying get waaaay out of hand and now nobody wants they’re lying, thieving selves around. Simple. Help those who actually need help... and jail with mandatory drug treatment for the lazy heathens that have zero wrong with them besides preference for meth or heroin to working. Mr. Knowitall has solved many of the community crisis that have stricken our lovely burg. Chalk up another one solved.

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