If you follow the news you know that Sheriff Lee Baca is pretty much under fire these days. Eighteen of his people were indicted by the Feds for allegedly abusing jail inmates. Very serious allegations but just the latest in that long story. He's admitted his department shouldn't have hired dozens of people as deputies from a County Public Safety agency that was disbanding, due to problems in their backgrounds that normally would disqualify them from being hired as Sheriff's Deputies.
Still, the Sheriff considers himself a good leader, an innovator, a reformer who deserves reelection to a fifth term next year. One reason why is what he's called ‘' Education Based Incarceration''. It's a program that provides high school diplomas, vocational classes, and other life skills to inmates. The basic concept is to make sure people are ‘'better'' coming out than going in.
Baca's hardly the first to provide education behind bars. In fact state law requires it. But, what he did two about 18 months ago is create this EBI bureau, with its own staff, and centralized all the programs that were being offered in different county facilities. I attended a High School graduation in the high security North County Correctional Facility deep into the hills off I-5 in Castaic. It was impressive and moving. Men in their 20's 30's, and 40's finishing high school and getting their diplomas in a whole pomp and circumstance cap and gown setting with their families in tears and applauding. These were guys with drug convictions and other felonies most of them AB 109 inmates. Meaning their state prison inmates doing their time in county jails, and making the most of it.