BARSTOW Jason Cable spent 15 years in the California Institute for Men in Chino for substance abuse.

He barely knows his daughters, ages 10 and 15, who live with their mother in San Bernardino, he says. And, until he was enrolled at Panorama Ranch's substance abuse program in Barstow, he never thought he'd be able to rid himself of his addiction.

Now, after 46 days, he's more than halfway through the 90-day program, and is looking forward to being back in society. He says he may even go back to school.

"This program's a miracle for me," he said. "I'm taking full advantage of it."

Panorama Ranch opened its residential substance abuse program on Fredricks Avenue in October 2007 and began taking parolees about a year ago. Since its opening 140 people have successfully completed the program, about 60 of them former members of the prison system Program Coordinator Rhonda Robinson said. But since the presence parolees in the neighborhood have become known to the Barstow mayor and police chief, concerns over the community's safety have arisen.

"I've noticed for the past eight months that our residential burglary rate was sky high in that area," said Barstow Police Chief Dianne Burns. "There was no other way to explain what was going on down there other than the existence of that ranch."

Burns said for the past eight months something definitely changed between the 200 and 400 block of East and West Fredricks Avenue. She said she thought the public housing facility in the area was to blame, but changed her mind when Mayor Joe Gomez told her about Panorama Ranch.

Gomez said he saw a group of 20 people walking down the street near the post office and began asking questions about who they were and where they were going. They just started explaining Panorama Ranch's program, he said. He said he thought Panorama Ranch was a program for the local community, not outsiders and the city wasn't notified of the change.

"I don't know how many of them are on parole, but a good number of them are. I'd say the majority," he said. "(The City Council) is working with the probation department, the police department and Panorama Ranch to make sure that situation is taken care of. I do not want that type of program in our community."

Beverly Ary, executive director of the Morongo Basin Counseling and Recovery Center Panorama Ranch's parent organization said as a program funded by the Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agency, a state program, and contracted through the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health Alcohol and Drug Services, Panorama must take prisoners who are residents of San Bernardino County and were convicted of substance abuse-related crimes. All of their clients lived in San Bernardino County before being convicted, and after they are released on parole, they receive substance abuse treatment through Panorama Ranch or other state-funded facilities.

Robinson said out of 33 clients currently going through Panorama Ranch's 90-day program, 28 of them are parolees. They attend classes on topics ranging from anger management and parenting to meeting etiquette and go to Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They also take daily supervised walks around the neighborhood. Each client works with a counselor and follows an individual treatment plan, Ary said, and a parole officer is also assigned to them. If the Panorama Ranch program isn't working for a client, their parole officer finds other arrangements for them.

Even though Ary said the neighbors haven't complained about Panorama Ranch's presence on Fredricks Avenue, she did meet with Burns and Gomez about the safety concerns they had. As a result of the chief and mayor's concerns, Ary said surveillance cameras will be installed at the facility's front and back entrances and around the perimeter.

"We're willing to sit down and talk (with them)," she said. "We're willing to work with everyone that's willing to work with us."

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com