2008 turned out to be a transformative year for San Benito County’s Probation Department. That was when they made the decision to hire Brent Cardall as their Chief Probation Officer.

Not only did his credentials make him the obvious choice for San Benito, it also made him the right choice. In the years since, the County’s Probation Department has won numerous awards

Today, they can add another to the list.

Join us in congratulating Brent Cardall in being named the County Official of the Year, as part of the PublicCEO Local Government Awards.

When Cardall arrived in San Benito County, the state was already facing difficult economic times. However, under Cardall’s leadership, the Probation Department managed to string together successive award winning years.

“When I came to San Benito from Utah,” said Cardall, “there were a lot of questions being asked about conditions of probation or what it was like inside of the juvenile detention center.”

As a result, Cardall and the Probation Department teamed up with a local high school video production class to create an informative video.

That effort led to an award from CSAC in 2009 that described the results of that effort. Calls to the Probation Department were reduced drastically, as the families of the detainees learned more about how the system worked.

“The video is now shown to every offender and guardian,” said Cardall. “It explains the whole process from beginning to end.”

The video also serves as a deterrent to other minors, showing what life can be like for those who break the law. And because the Department was able to work with students, the video cost only $100, instead of costing as much as $1,000 per minute.

This year, the County was once again recognized by CSAC for their Night Reporting program, which used community organizations and volunteers to create a single location for a variety of services for probationers. Not only does the Night Watch offer education and physical wellness programs, but also parenting classes and job services as well. The center saves the county more than $100,000.

Cardall isn’t simply proud of the cost savings, but the Night Watch program has allowed other programs to become incredibly effective.

“For some of these people, who never had a mentor or direction in their life, they’re finding that at the Community Review Board.”

The Review board operates as part of the Night Watch program. The Review Board is an alternative for individuals who violate their probation, without sending them back to detention centers or clogging up the courts.

When Cardall explained the Review Board, he said, “We’ll send someone to be Community Review Board, and they’ll find out what’s causing the problems. One man went to the board for not paying fines and penalties. When the board members asked him why not, he said he didn’t have a job.”

Ordinarily, not paying the fines would be enough to violate the offender and send him back to a facility. But in this case, the Community Review Board helped establish immediate, attainable goals. Instead of ordering him to pay his fines immediately or return to custody, they told him to get his drivers license back, setup and go to job interviews, and then get a new job. Those steps enabled him to pay his fines.

“The Community Review Board itself has been fantastic… we’ve sent several people there and they’ve turned their lives around.”

Cardall admits he’s fortunate though, that the community has been so willing to help. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of buy-in from the community.”

“Chief Probation Officers make a difference,” said Linda Penner, the President of the Chief Probation Officers of California, “and Brent is indicative of the difference we hope to make.”