New Reentry Services for Inmates

County invests nearly $1.5 million to prepare Elmwood inmates for reintegrating into the community

 Santa Clara / CALFORNIA

Lack of employment, a history of substance abuse, and families needing financial support are just a few of the challenges facing former offenders when they are released from incarceration. Tuesday the County of Santa Clara is making a $1.475 million investment to prepare in-custody individuals to successfully transition into the community. Five community partners have been selected to provide reentry services in the areas of job readiness and employment development training, family reunification and support, and health and well-being classes.

“Our Reentry Services Program is considered a statewide model to reduce recidivism in the correctional system,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “We want to apply this model of services to men and women who are in-custody because we believe it will equip them with necessary skills to reintegrate into society.”

The comprehensive reentry services will target in-custody adult inmates (men and women) at Elmwood Correctional Facility who are soon to be released and at highest risk of reoffending. The goal is to provide services to a minimum of 240 women and 1,200 men annually in the minimum security housing.  In the medium security level housing, the target is to provide services to a minimum of 240 women and 800 men annually.

The community organizations that have been awarded in-custody services contracts, totaling $1,475,000 for 30 months, include: Goodwill of Silicon Valley, $575,000; Pro Bono Silicon Valley, $162,500; Gardner Family Care Corporation, $162,500; Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, $287,500; and Enneagram Prison Project, $287,500.

Goodwill will focus on job readiness and employment development services. Pro Bono Silicon Valley and Gardner Family Care Corporation will provide family reunification and support services through family and domestic violence prevention and positive parenting program. Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley and Enneagram Project will conduct psycho-education classes that strive to teach drug or alcohol dependent persons coping skills to help them avoid relapsing back to using drugs and/or alcohol.

“Many formerly incarcerated individuals may inevitably reoffend if they don’t have proper support services when released,” said Gary Graves, County of Santa Clara Chief Operating Officer. “Now we are providing inmates with proven and effective community-based programing to prepare them before they are released from custody.”

Historically, two-thirds of those released from the County correctional system 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 County’s Reentry Services program started in October 2011.

“Our strategy to reduce recidivism is working,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Co-Chair of the County’s Reentry Network. “We are committed to providing inmates with the tools to succeed, and to rebuilding families and creating a safer community.”

To identify the level of need and inmate interest for in-custody services, the Office of Reentry Services and Department of Correction conducted a survey of 300 Elmwood inmates (69% were males and 31% females). Inmates identified employment services as the most important services to their success after release. Other program services they indicated as moderate or highly needed, included: vocational Education, Job Readiness, High School or GED Certification, General Education Courses for College, Positive Parenting, Family & Domestic Violence Prevention, Substance Abuse Treatment, and Life Skills, and Cognitive Behavioral Learning.

Of the 3,652 daily jail population, currently 19% of inmates have participated in in-custody services and programming. With the more comprehensive services being offered, the number is expected to increase to 25% initially.

“We conducted surveys to identify and customize services for our inmate population,” said Chief of Correction John Hirokawa. “Our focus is to help inmates gain the skill sets to become productive members of the community.”

Goodwill of Silicon Valley was selected as the community partner to provide job readiness and employment development training. As part of Goodwill’s services, it will offer a l2-week curriculum focusing on job readiness, cognitive modification, employment training, and life skills. Topics will include: resume writing, life skills, interview preparation, mock interviews, financial management, and job search and applications. Goodwill is also providing 15 eight to 12 week paid-on-the-job training positions for inmates to learn a job skill, and will assist them with seeking outside employment once they are released.

“Employment is critical to helping inmates put their lives back together, and is one of the most difficult hurdles for them to overcome,” said Michael E. Fox, President and CEO, Goodwill of Silicon Valley. “Our services provide a foundation for finding gainful employment.”

The Office of Reentry Services will monitor the program and provide quarterly reports to the Public Safety and Justice Committee and Re-Entry Network with updates on the contractors’ performance measures, successes and challenges. Additionally, because the County did not receive education project proposals during the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, $325,000 will be set aside for future in-custody educational services.