Changing Lives

Juvenile crime is at a historic low in San Diego County, and the decade long downward trend gives the County added incentive to break down barriers to success and change lives.


While the County’s ultimate goal is to keep youth out of the justice system, those who do become delinquent are often victims of unfortunate circumstances. That’s why the Probation Department is transforming its thinking about juvenile justice and becoming a model of positive justice reform.

Probation closed the region’s last remote camp program – Camp Barrett – and reconfigured units at the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility to develop a more home-like setting. The new location also makes it easier for families to visit youth in custody. In 2020, the County will begin renovating the entire site to create a new Juvenile Justice Campus.


Probation expanded the Alternatives to Detention program this past year to allow 750 youth to get help outside of the detention setting. The program keeps kids as close as possible to their home and families while keeping the public safe.


Community mentoring for teens on probation began in Oceanside. The mentors were previously in the justice system and can relate to similar experiences that youth are going through now.  Mentors work with them, their families and Probation officers to help teens turn their lives around.

“I heard about SD Nights through the after school program, my friends went to it last year and said it was fun. SD Nights has helped me be more social by interacting with students in my school.“

Participant - Safe Destination Nights, San Ysidro

The nationally recognized intervention program CHOICE was added to the array of Probation services for youth and families. CHOICE supports youth who are struggling to maintain court orders to successfully complete probation. Probation officers and community organizations meet with youth up to three times a day to help them meet that goal. Two Achievement Centers will also open soon as an alternative to juvenile hall. The centers will be located in the communities where many of these youth live and attend school.


Safe Destination Nights, or SD Nights, has taken off and is now operating in 15 locations across the region. County Parks began hosting the program in July 2018 to help keep kids occupied and off the streets during critical hours. The program also gives teens opportunities to interact with local law enforcement. SD Nights began at Parks’ Spring Valley Community Center and quickly grew to other locations. Over 200 events have already taken place. This last fiscal year, SD Nights hired 50 youth to help manage the program, and 8,000 young people attended the events.


Keeping families together is critical to youth success, and the holidays can be a difficult time when these young people can’t celebrate at home. Probation hosted several holiday meals so families could be together.

“I just wanted to let you know that I got the job!...I'm not used to people believing in me enough to help me out and I'm just very grateful.”

Parent - Department of Child Support Services

Adults face barriers to success, too. A criminal record can make finding a job, housing, and getting an education very difficult. The Public Defender’s Fresh Start program is helping more people with criminal histories move forward by reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors, dismissing or expunging criminal records and seeking Certificates of Rehabilitation. The number of applicants seeking help has nearly doubled this year. Additional automation allowed Fresh Start to handle more clients.


Fresh Start applications

“We were all sitting together. We had a lot of fun. It wasn’t like we were locked up. It felt like we were having Thanksgiving with our parents.”

Client - Probation Girls Rehabilitation Facility

The Department of Child Support Services rolled out several programs to address barriers like employment and transportation. The department set up Here to Help Hubs at its branch locations so customers can go online to search and apply for jobs. The Hubs also offer legal assistance, job readiness and placement services. “Super Saturday” events at various locations throughout the region give customers legal and employment assistance in addition to child support services.


The department’s In Your Neighborhood program now provides a range of child support-related services at 22 locations throughout the county, cutting travel time by bringing services closer to those who need them.


customers used child support services at 22 neighborhood locations.

Child Support Services collected $3.77

for every $1 spent in operations.



County Administration Center

1600 Pacific Highway

San Diego, CA 92101

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