SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.---Lack of healthcare, a history of substance abuse, unemployment and often a need for housing are just a few of the challenges facing former offenders when they are released from County jail or State prison. At a time when many California counties are building new jails to house offenders, the County of Santa Clara is creating rehabilitation and transitional services to give former inmates the resources they need to safely reintegrate back into the community.
Today, the County of Santa Clara held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and resource fair at the Santa Clara County Re-Entry Resource Center to introduce essential support services and resources, such as health care access, alcohol and drug treatment, and employment and housing assistance. These services are being provided to successfully reintegrate former offenders back into the Santa Clara County community, and are part of the strategy to reduce repeat offenses, as well as to create a healthier, safer community.
The data reveal that the County’s strategy is working. Historically, two-thirds of those released were rearrested for new offenses. This has changed dramatically, now, four out of five individuals are succeeding and have not had any repeat offenses since the program started Oct. 1, 2011.
“Over the past two years, Santa Clara County has been putting the building blocks in place to assist former offenders to successfully transition into the county, and at the same time create a stronger, safer and healthier community,” said President George Shirakawa, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “The Re-Entry Resource Center supports the Santa Clara County Re-Entry Network’s mission to create a seamless system of services, support and supervision for former offenders. Ultimately, our integrated system of services may serve as a model for other California counties facing the same challenges of recidivism and State realignment.”
In June 2011, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved the creation of the Santa Clara County Reentry Network for adult offenders who have paid their debt to society. The Network, chaired by Supervisor Shirakawa, was created to help the County develop cross-system, comprehensive re-entry and recidivism reduction strategies, including those needed to prepare the County for Public Safety Realignment (Assembly Bill 109, the 2011 Public Safety Realignment Act) of parolees and low-level prisoners.
“Across County departments we are collaborating in a Re-Entry model to assess and meet the needs of former offenders to make sure they have all the tools necessary to be productive members of the community,” said Jeffrey V. Smith, County Executive. “The County of Santa Clara is leading the way as we implement one of the region’s strongest justice-realignment programs.”
Under AB109, county residents committing new non-violent, non-serious, and non-high risk sex offenses are no longer eligible for state prison. Instead, these individuals will be sentenced to county jail. At the same time, individuals who are returning home after completing state prison sentences for non-violent, non-serious, and non-high risk sex offenses are now assigned to community supervision under County Probation rather than state parole. The challenge for California counties is that this movement of people from state prison to county jails and onto probation caseloads increases the number of formerly incarcerated individuals in need of services at the county level.
“The Probation Department supervises as many as 18,000 probationers on a daily basis,” said Probation Chief Sheila Mitchell, chair of the Community Corrections Partnership responsible for implementing the AB109 public safety realignment plan. “With re-entry services and referrals to the Re-Entry Resource Center already in place to help individuals integrate back into the community, we were able to quickly link the additional 1,000 formerly incarcerated individuals released from state prisons, who otherwise would have been released from the State into our community without the County’s services.”
The Re-entry Resource Center is a one-stop location where resources are available, services include:
- Intake and needs assessment
- Alcohol and drug treatment and care
- Resources to the faith communities
- Peer Mentoring
- Housing Assistance
- General assistance benefits
- Health care referral – medical and mental health services
- Case Management
- Clothes Closet
- Additional resources coming online in the next few months include Employment Services, Food Assistance/Distribution, Life Skills Classes, Peer Support Groups
The Re-Entry Resource Center, located at 151 W. Mission St., San Jose, includes the Re-Entry Multi-Agency Program (Re-Entry MAP), Probation, Sheriff’s Office, Custody Health, Mental Health Department, Department of Alcohol and Drug Services, Department of Correction, County Executive’s Office, and Social Services Agency.
Since February 2012, when the resource center began initial operation, the Re-entry MAP team has assessed and connected 453 individuals to needed services. The center is a centralized assessment and resource location for individuals released from custody and/or on probation to receive referral and wrap around services to help them become stable and self sufficient as they reintegrate into the community.
“We have a new approach and are providing services in a way that has never been done before in Santa Clara County,” said Dr. Nancy Peña, Mental Health Department Director, who was instrumental in establishing the Re-Entry Multi-Agency Program. “Clients are taking steps to change their lives. Whether it’s career development, finding employment, addressing mental health issues or addiction challenges, or taking the time to map their road to long-term recovery, the Re-Entry Program is there to help.”
"As part of our model, we believe that former inmates may commit fewer new offenses if we meet basic needs such as job training and placement, housing and evidenced based programming to address substance abuse," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith who co-chairs the Re-Entry Network. "The Re-Entry Resource Center is a grand collaborative of County departments to meet these needs in a one-stop center. I'm very excited to be a part of the team that offers a new vision into rehabilitation and re-entry. I've assigned Correctional Deputies, Rehabilitation Officers and Milpitas Adult Education instructor, which make up the Custodial Alternative Supervision Unit (CASU), at the Re-Entry Resource Center to provide supervision, drug testing, re-entry services and education."
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING, Oct. 23
On Oct. 23, the Board of Supervisors will consider the Santa Clara County Adult Reentry Five-Year Strategic Plan.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND JUSTICE COMMITTEE MEETING, Nov. 7
On Nov. 7, the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee will consider a one-year retrospective of Public Safety Realignment (AB109).
Posted: October 18, 2012