Probation department, BI Inc. to host 'Transition Celebration' for probationers

The Merced County Probation Department and BI Inc., the operator of a day-reporting program for probationers in Merced, will host a transition celebration for probationers who have successfully completed their criminal justice program.

The Probation Department oversees BI and the program. The county received an award last year from the California State Association of Counties for implementing the program in an effort to reduce recidivism, jail crowding and to lower overall correctional costs, the agencies said in a news release.

The center opened in March 2008, with a focus on managing younger offenders.

The ceremony will take place at Christian Life Center, 650 E. Olive Ave., today at 6 p.m. Representatives from several political offices and departments will attend, including Mayor Bill Spriggs, Chief of Police Norm Andrade, Police Lt. Andre Matthews, Hub Walsh of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, Louise Farley from state Sen. Jeff Denham's office, and Erasmo Viveros from Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani's office.

In addition, Chief Probation Officer Brian Cooley, one of the main proponents of adding the center to help tackle repeat offending by youthful and juvenile offenders, will attend, according to the news release.

Linda Lopez, a constituent services/field representative from Rep. Dennis Cardoza's office, will deliver the keynote talk. Program graduates and former program participants will also speak. More than 100 are expected to attend.

The Merced County Day Reporting Center, at 3345 M St., includes supporting the supervision efforts of probation officers, cognitive behavioral treatment and training for offenders who typically recidivate at high cost to local taxpayers, the news release said.

After one year, 84 percent of those who go through the program are employed or involved in school, the news release said, adding that activities are a major stabilizer in offender's lives, helping them avoid criminal behavior.

The day-reporting program is reserved for chronic offenders who require extra supervision. Offenders who report to it go through a four-phase program that includes regular reporting to the center, intensive treatment and training, and ongoing testing for drug and alcohol use. Offenders also participate in classes geared to change criminal behavior.

The Merced County center is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m.

For more information about the transition celebration, contact Patricia Carter, program manager, at (209) 723-0119.