Following a vote Tuesday by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Byron will close within 60 to 90 days, with 36 staff eventually transitioning into new positions within the county probation department.

The board voted 3-2 to close the facility, with supervisors John Gioia and Federal Glover dissenting. Both supported keeping the facility — also known as the “Boy’s Ranch,” in the unincorporated East County area of Byron — open until late March to allow for more transition time and input from the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices.

The facility is a discretionary, minimum-security residential commitment program for adolescent males at 4491 Bixler Road. It is intended to serve low- to moderate-risk youth, with a rated bed capacity of 100.

The Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility is located between Byron and Discovery Bay in East Contra Costa County. (Photo courtesy of Contra Costa County)

Contra Costa County’s probation department recommended closing the ranch for multiple reasons.

The facility’s population has been dwindling — from 62 in April 2018 to 10 by the same date this year, though up to 11 on Sept. 1 — and it needs $5.4 million in necessary repairs to keep it open.

The average annual maintenance is $595,579. Operating expenses for the facility total approximately $6,546,500 for fiscal year 2022-23.

The closure would make way for development of the Briones Youth Academy Community Path program. The Briones program would allow youth to participate in the same comprehensive evidence-based programs and services they would have received at Orin Allen, while remaining at home.

Ripping off the Band-Aid

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen said it’s time to “rip off the Band-Aid and let’s move forward and not keep talking about it.”

“It doesn’t make sense to try to keep both programs going in parallel,” Andersen said. “Either you don’t have the staffing but more importantly you don’t want the youth out there when they could be back home in their own communities.”

“This minimizes the disruption and impact on youth and families, allowing them to focus on rehabilitative services,” a staff report for Tuesday’s meeting said.

Gioia said he was concerned there weren’t enough low-security options yet for youth offenders to stay out of juvenile hall. Glover agreed waiting until March was a better option.

“It would also give the opportunity for our other juvenile justice partners — the DA’s office and public defender’s office, as well as support — to be a part of what that looks like and be able to have it in place at the time of the closure,” Glover said.

“This minimizes the disruption and impact on youth and families, allowing them to focus on rehabilitative services.”

Staff report

The Briones program is meant to eventually develop into a multi-use youth campus sometime between 2024 and 2029.

The staff report says “emerging research related to adolescent brain development and increased investments in community programming and services has impacted trends in both charging and sentencing ‘delinquent’ youth. This has resulted in a reduced reliance on juvenile incarceration and a steady decline in the population at (Orin Allen).”

The report also says recent laws have increased the need for officers to support other programs and services for realigned youth.

The probation department, in partnership with community-based providers, would see youth seven days a week and transport them to regional locations three nights a week for cognitive behavioral group programming. They would also provide access to the same recreational program options, such as sailing and hiking trips, on the weekends.

Other advantages of this approach would include intensive, home-based family therapy, and the ability to serve girls, which wasn’t possible at Orin Allen.