20190717-bc-OIS (copy)

In this file photo, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood speaks during a news conference.

Kern County law enforcement agencies are working to enact a new policy that would lead to stricter punishments for some convicted of low-level crimes.

The policies are meant to address concerns raised by local residents overwhelmed by what they say is a criminal element among Bakersfield’s homeless population with little interest in seeking help.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood and District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer have worked together with local judges to increase jail time for certain misdemeanors, like possession of heroin.

They say the new strategy will reduce crime and provide an opportunity for drug addicts to get treatment away from the temptations of the streets.

“When they’re on the street, they’re lining up to find drugs, not to get into programs,” Youngblood said at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. “I get phone calls every single day. Our citizens are done, they’re through. They want something done and they want law enforcement to do it.”

But first, Kern County will need to pony up the cash to pay for additional jail beds.

Youngblood said Kern County facilities have about 600 empty beds that could be filled if he had more detention deputies.

The city of Bakersfield has entered negotiations with the county to help pay for deputies to staff about 120 jail cells, which could contain more than one bed each.

City Manager Alan Tandy said at a recent City Council meeting that the expected price for the additional cells is about $1.6 million.

Who pays what is still under negotiation.


Youngblood and Zimmer hope to target criminals who got a break after California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014.

Under the proposition, possession of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine went from being a felony to being a misdemeanor, along with stealing less than $950 worth of property.

Due to limited jail space, deputies in Kern County typically give out citations for those arrested on suspicion of drug possession or stealing less than $950. But law enforcement officials say those cited seldom show up in court, and the next time they are arrested they simply receive another ticket and give another promise to show up.

It’s a frustrating cycle, according to the DA.

“We’d like to be able to not give someone a ticket who has possession of drugs, a ticket to someone who has vandalized, a ticket for someone with a promise to go to court,” Zimmer said. “Because they don’t go to court. They don’t go to court because they are high and they can’t make these kinds of decisions. They have to go to jail.”

In a comprehensive survey of Kern County’s homeless population conducted in January, 51 percent of respondents reported a substance abuse issue, according to the city.

Under the new policy, those repeatedly arrested for drug possession and theft could be held in jail on no-bail warrants until trial. And if they are found guilty, they could be sentenced up to a year, the maximum allowed by the law.

“You have to have the stick to go along with the carrot for some of these folks,” Supervisor Zack Scrivner said at the meeting.

Both the county and city hope that a stint in jail will prompt some drug addicts to enter the programs that could get them sober.

Before Proposition 47 eliminated Kern County’s substance abuse treatment program, about 2,683 people were granted access in a single year, the District Attorney's Office said in a report.

“We had the ability to help people who had drug problems, and these laws have hobbled us now in law enforcement,” Zimmer said.

Youngblood hopes to bring a plan before the supervisors within a month.

“Those empty beds, it’s not because crime has gone down, it’s because we’re letting them prey on our citizens,” he said. “If we let this grow any more, we’re not going to be able to contain this.”

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

(74) comments


And this companion article says more:


Want to know when and where it all started?


And so . . they came . . .(but not to 'serve' Uncle Sam as many of us did)



CORRECTED: One up this all. Departmentalize "drug" jails. Forced rehabilitation. Make it a Three Strikes approach. Jail sentences for first and second time drug offenders, where focus is on mandated rehabilitation, of more than substantial duration for offenders to leave clean. Two chances to clean-up their lives, then third strike, regular jail and/or prison sentences.


Ridiculous you clearly don’t have a clue about drug rehabilitation . Sitting in jail does not address the underlying mental health issues of a drug addict. We have tried mass incarceration of drug offenses and it does not work. It is too expensive the monies would be better spent if counseling , job training , psychiatry. Drug addiction is a lifelong disease. People will fail and will have to be made to get back into treatment. Over and over again probably for the rest of their lives.


One up this all. Departmentalize "drug" fails. Forced rehabilitation. Make it a Three Strikes approach. Jail sentences for first and second time drug offenders, where focus is on mandated rehabilitation, of more than substantial duration for offenders to leave clean. Two chances to clean-up their lives, then third strike, regular jail and/or prison sentences.


The county shut down the Kern Linkage program, which got hundreds of mentally ill permanently off the streets. Now when psychotic people commit picayune crimes, they can go to jail for years, as did a neighbor of mine for whom I sought help, after he hit a deputy who responded to an almost daily complaint. It may have cost the state a half million dollars to try and convict him, and send him to prison for five years, when a $25 monthly shot could have dealt with his problem.


Yes this u true!!! The county is jailing the mentally ill instead of funds supportive services. But the worst issue is the refusal to pick up the gravelly mentally ill off the streets and put them into hospitals. Sad and shameful

The Jackal

Jail does not address drug addiction. That's done in drug treatment centers.


Right, obviously.


As an MSW-educated social worker, and a former Probation Officer, I can attest through ample experience the value of jail therapy. Addicts typically avoid therapy when there are no consequences to their behavior. Society has to set limits, and enforce them, if we expect people to be motivated to change. I saved quite a few lives by putting folks in jail who refused cooperation with treatment, and guess what: most suddenly saw the light after a couple of weeks in the slammer, and then thanked me afterwards for forcing them into sobriety and treatment. Adults, after all, are just grown up children. And if you don’t set limits with a kid, what do you get? It’s not rocket science.


That sounds like ex-D.A.Ed Jagels' mentality. Lock 'em up. Even if they haven't done anything. Ed's wife was one of the biggest dope fiends in Kern County but rarely suffered any conseqwuences.Ed also locked up dozens of supposed "child molesters" who hadn't done anything wrong. Some pleaded guilty, faced with 50 years in jail, when it was later found they hadn't done anything. Ed used to speed around in an unregistered vintage Porsche but didn't suffer any consequences.


Cynthia, our newly elected DA, has made Ed Kern County's "unpaid"

representative in Sacramento regardless of his illegal doings. They must

really think we are stupid here in Kern.


In other words you firmly believe in punishing people to get

the results you desire. I don't. And how many folks did not

respond well to your method of "therapy"? The prevailing attitude

in Kern County is to use force to make people behave well. This

denotes a really stupid way of thinking. And of course in this article

no one who knows anything about human behavior is asked about this idea.

And as an added bonus Donnie gets the increase in deputies he can't get any

other way.


This is one of the few things I'd happily pay more taxes for. The toll on our society of this drug epidemic is immense. Lock them up and treat them and maybe they will come out and become productive members of our society.


Services have to be wrapped around them to keep them from going back to drugs. Also job training and companies willing to give them second chances .


This is an attempt to increase the sheriff's budget. Treatment for addicts works. Incarceration should be rehabilitative and brief-too expensive. Jails are not the most effective place for treatment- law enforcement is emotionally abusive at least and many people are traumatized by their militaristic approaches. These are not all the dregs of society- they are OUR family members, our community. They are not from out of town.


Absolutely everyone in the mental health community knows addiction is a mental illness or used to cover up and self medicate an underlying mental illness. If the jail facility is turned into a rehab filled with social workers instead of CO great


is this even legal?

"Kern County law enforcement agencies are working to enact a new policy that would lead to stricter punishments for some convicted of low-level crimes."

?... can policies lead to stricter punishment....can cops make policies that selectively enforce laws for certain groups of people but not all the people?...


In Kern County it is legal and normal. I understand the ACLU has opened offices

in Kern. They will have a lot of business here with both Donnie and Cynthia.


Just so we’re all agreed, the County Jail will be the next homeless facility. We lock up vagrants to persuade them to move on. Forget about if an OxyContin addict now has to feed her addiction with street heroin, she’s probably robbing people’s homes of vandalizing places to get the money, while her fellow addicts are all out vandalizing. Once we agree heroin addicts should be locked up because they’re all out committing crimes, we don’t have to actually have proof that a person committed a crime that deserves getting locked up for.


To Cooper and the other's that don't agree with the Sheriff and the D.A. I just moved from an area that had "Rehab this" and "Rehab that".....and guess what!?!?! It doesn't work! Lock 'em up because they committed a CRIME! Don't waste money on rehabilitation services. How many patients in the ER did I come across that said, "Rehab saved me".....said NO ONE EVER. If we start locking them up maybe the other homeless peeps will spread the news that Kern County isn't the place to pitch your tent!


You are spreading lies. Rehab services do work especially combined with mental health treatment . That is why it is called kern county behavioral health and rehabilitation services. What doesn’t work is throwing people in jail for misdeamoners . We have tried that social experiment and it failed


I do, personally, know of a few folks who cleaned up due to the shock of incarceration.


What is the director of Kern behavioral health and addiction services think about 1.6 million being spent on jail for addicts and not services for rehabilitation? Give rehabilitation services an extra 1.6 million for rehab and sober living houses and job training.


jail for misdemeanors is stupid and ridiculously expensive.


Draconian and backwards jail does not work for drug addicts. The facility should be turned into rehabilitation. Once again Bakersfield is proving itself to be backwards and stupid .


I guess you can’t buy them bus tickets to Tulare or Kings counties, so incarcerating them in Kern is a pretty slick way to coerce...er, convince them to move to a kinder, more tolerant county. Nice move, Donnie! “Not in my neighborhood” has been super-sized.


''Youngblood and Zimmer hope to target criminals who got a break after California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014."

Well this is exactly what I would expect from these two.All problems can be

solved by putting more people in jail and let's find a way to get around prop, 47.

And of course with this plan Donny gets the extra deputies he has been unable

to get otherwise. No mention of anything to actually help these folks, the majority

of whom have mental health problems.Except jail. And this is what is wrong

with Donny and Cynthia's thought processes.Every thing will get better if we just

get a lot stricter with people we don't like.By taking this stupid attitude we are bound to fail in decreasing the homeless problem.


You should educate yourself on the "Drug War" and it's failings.


The homeless and those that commit "minimal" per 2014 vote, are really only getting a slap on the wrist. No consequences for wrongful actions. By coddling the dregs of society only makes it worse for the taxpaying public to have what they work and pay taxes for, safe homes, business and community. As one who has been addicted I know that one will never go in for help until one is ready in their own mind. No one can force anyone to change. One year in Jail gives one the opportunity to get sober if the resources are there for them to utilize. The hands off LIBERAL attitude is only making our city, county and state unsafe and more dangerous each and every day.


Nobody is sober in jail . Do your research , drugs are a big business in jails. Rehab services and sober living houses is the best answer.


Actually no liberal believes in hands off. Turn off your state news t v and learn something. Liberals want monies to go to mental health and rehab and job training services . The conservative failed war on drugs and tough on crime has been not only a HUGE failure but incredibly expensive. In a society that spends more on CO officers and prison instead of teachers Nd schools . When conservatives shut down mental hospitals . When conservatives claim to care about veterans. But call them dregs on earth when they are 70 percent of homeless suffering with PTSD become drug addicts to self Medicare and end up on the streets now they want to throw them in jail instead of “wrapping” services around them and build hallway houses and low income housing. ALL of which is way cheaper than jail. Shut up and sit down you sound stuoid.

Susan S

I must be missing something in their plan. Where is the treatment?


Exactly their is NO treatment just jail time.


I agree with JJ1234. They are singling out people based on the fact they are homeless. Drugs don't discriminate...why aren't they looking for wealthy drug addicts as well? This town is so full of corruption it makes me Ill .Sending them to jail is a far cry from rehabilitation...SMH..

Just another way for these officials to ask for money. What a joke!


It's just not drug addiction and their refusal to work or live like a normal human beings. They steal, vandalize and pollute the areas where they loiter. Look at their camps in the east Bakersfield foothills or the riverbed. Trash and human waste are piled up and around their tents, tarps and cardboard shades. He!! yes they should be incarcerated! It's their choice people! They choose to live like this and I'm finding it more and more difficult to have compassion for them. I 100% agree with the sheriff.


Another issue is they have been institutionalized meaning they don't know how to be normal. When California decriminalized drug offenses, these addicts were released from prison and jail and their families have already given up on them and want nothing to do with them, so here we are, addicts living on the streets in every California city.


Ding ding ding ! Well said and truthful


Only by the Grace of God goes you or I. You sound like a judgmental idiot.


“Sheriff Donny Youngblood and District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer have worked together with local judges to increase jail time for certain misdemeanors, like possession of heroin.”

Well, there you have it. The independence of the judicial branch in Kern County is dead. Mr reporter, you have a bigger story here than the homeless issue. You have an admission by local officials to unjustly target people with heavier jail sentences due to their economic status. This story has the potential to go viral and every other comment below is centered on homeless people, not the erosion of US law by elected officials.


JJ1234, you're a fool.


JJ1234 is speaking truth


Copper, I find it hard to believe you would know what the truth is, let alone facts.


Truth bong right gere


Thank God we have a sheriff who is no afraid to enforce the law these days, especially in California. We have allowed drug addicts and criminals to take over our streets. Lets help the sheriff send a message to these individuals the GAME is over!!


Ok Youngblood pumping up cost to bleed taxpayer and fatten the ranks. $1.6M to staff 120 beds for one year?! Lol. Uh... even if these klutzes added 4 detention officers for 3 shifts that would be paying them $133k EACH per year. Keep the pork flowing KC. These cats love your ignorance. Example: first order of biz once City n County took over Homeless Coalition: $150k requested for “staffing”. Translation: Let’s hire one of our buddies at $100k annually and two $25k per year serfs. THEN we’ll go back and say the workload is tremendous; need more staff—hire a couple more cronies at $6ok each. Watch and see. Happens every time. Nepotism n cronyism at its finest in Bako.




Mrknowitall clearly knows how this is only going to hurt kern county financially and not really help any if these people.


He is not enforcing the law of the people he is creating his own laws. This should terrify us all!!!


Youngblood is creating his own law . Misdemeanor drug offense and homelessness should never be a crime worth 1 year in jail. If any if you heartless people thinks this is ok you’ve lost your rabid a!$ minds. Wrapping treatment and mental health services around these individuals is the only answer. Youngblood just doing a money grab , over stepping his authority and is ultimately hurting any progress trying to be made on building housing and services to help these people.


Most dug addicts don't want rehab, you have to force them into it via the criminal justice system.


No they don’t but jail is not the answer. A forced rehab center for a year is better plan.


And you called me an idiot? Jail is not the answer, but instead force them into a rehab center for a year is better? Well well well, “ The sheriff is making his own laws. Gee wiz that’s scary!” Guess what simpleton? They can’t be forced into a rehab center, but you know what can be done? Jail time where drug programs can be offered. Do you proof read before you post? Not for just grammatical errors, but the actual meaning of your words and ideas?


Body snatchers you are the simpleton. Jailing people for drug offenses has never worked. Learn your history. Start with the 80’s. Yes I did say “forced” rehab. And “forced” mental health treatment. This is actually taking place and does. work. It just needs to be done on a broader scale and the infrastructure needs to be built. If Youngblood said we are turning the facility into a behavioral health and rehab center cool ok let’s do that. But having people who are sick just rotting in jail will change nothing in a year once they are released.!they need services . Anything less is wrong. We also have Laura’s Law when a judge “ sentences” an individual with a choice . Follow the recommendations for mental health treatment. Such as psychiatrist, medications, counseling, sobriety, group therapy etc. INSTEAD of jail time. 99.99 percent of individuals follow through. It’s proven to work. Do your research .


Housing homeless drug addicts in jail seems like a very expensive, short-term fix. However, hoping a person will check themselves into treatment is overly wishful thinking. We need a secure, drug treatment hospital. With a great sigh, we resign ourselves to another 1% tax.


We have tried mass incarceration of drug addicts . It does not work. It should be a sentence to drug rehabilitation and diver living houses.


Sober living houses . And seriously what in the .. is wrong with Youngblood and anybody who thinks this archaic and outdated and already failed way to deal with this societal issue is good in any way? SMH


They need more officers to supervise the incarcerated, AND need innovative and competent drug treatment program and mental health specialists to work with them, daily.


And job training so they can get a job when they are released onto the streets with no money no experience and no place to go

Patricia Edna

Nobody is suggesting we round up all the homeless and send them to Laredo. This is for those who are refusing to adhere to the terms of their probation which includes crimes that affect the community. Leaving them out to wreak havoc does nothing to increase our quality of life, and they know there are no consequences to their actions. Yes, we also need to incorporate our mental health system into this plan because many addicts are in their situation because of mental health issues. But they are still creating problems in society and must be addressed.

Patricia Edna



No you start by incorporating and spending the money on mental health treatments. Not hire more C O “s


The mentally ill should be placed into mental hospitals then into hallway houses for mentally ill hem board and care. The drug addicts should be put into rehab. Then sober living houses with job training . The unemployed should be put into job training and low income housing. The homeless veterans should have special military housing and services. Then the few homeless left who are sociopath criminals should go to jail. This is not a one size fits all issue. Youngblood trying to take the money for his own interests


Ok brainiac, how do you suppose that’s done without forcing people against their will? Careful answering that question.


They absolutely should be forced it’s calked a 5150 and conservatorship

Patricia Edna

Exactly! We must first put them in confinement so we can offer them the rehab they REQUIRE. They don’t need it, they require it. They will never change without it.


Forcing them to change is a (abhorrent) last resort. Better to give people hope and skills toward desiring the change....but that takes time, skill, and money (which is typically in short supply when it comes to government approaches toward systematic problems.)


very Trumpian plan.....see you all in He ll


I understand the Sheriff is currently sitting on an empty facility at Lerdo that the County cannot afford to staff- the Minimum facility which is composed of a serious of low level dormitory style units. Its a a County asset that is going to waste. Why not convert it to house the homeless, drug abuse treatment center, or figure some other way to turn it into a revenue stream that could be used to combat homelessness. The idea of locking up midemeant drug offenders is sold news and is not the way out of this problem.


Hopefully with healthy pay raises for incoming deputies the Sheriff will be able to hire enough deputies to watch over the 600 empty beds and fill them with the homeless people who by reason of their drug addiction, mental illness and naturally slothful nature don’t want to work for a living. With 600 empty jail beds, the solution seems pretty obvious.


“Mental illness and naturally slothful nature.” You’d be the same person who reads New Testament passages and agrees Jesus hated the homeless and poor. Got news for you GetReal2, you’re terrible human being.


Rather than jailing homeless drug addicts, why not buy them a bus ticket to a place (almost anywhere else), where drug addiction is recognized as a disease. Or maybe consolidate Sheriff and Mental Health department’s since of lot of people complaining probably are unbiased regarding their distaste for homeless mentally ill people and drug addicted homeless people. In fact, there’s likely a big overlap and the jail has a lot of unused beds. In fact, if we have 600 empty jail beds, does the County/City really need to spend taxpayer money on a homeless shelter.


I understand the Sheriff is currently sitting on an empty facility at Lerdo that the County cannot afford to staff- the Minimum facility which is composed of a seriess of low level dormitory style units. Its a a County asset that is going to waste. Why not convert it to house the homeless,convert it to a drug abuse treatment center, or figure some other way to turn it into a revenue stream that could be used to combat homelessness. The idea of locking up midemeant drug offenders is sold news and is not the way out of this problem.


Yeh, Donny!


About time!

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