Monday, September 10, 2007

CDCR Hosts Secure Community Reentry Facility Regional Workshop in Santa Rosa for Seven North Bay Counties

Elected Officials, Stakeholders Invited to Event on New Prison and Jail Reforms

SANTA ROSA – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) hosted the sixth in a series of regional workshops today on Secure Community Reentry Facilities, a key component of recently signed legislation by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reform California’s prison and jail systems. The workshop, held in Santa Rosa, included officials from Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Solano and Colusa counties to discuss secure community reentry facilities. Breakout sessions covered parolee programming needs, jail construction funding, and standards for reentry facilities

“The Governor’s comprehensive corrections reforms aim to address severe inmate overcrowding at state prisons and local jails by funding new beds tied to rehabilitation, and creating secure reentry facilities in the local communities where inmates will be returning,” said Marisela Montes, CDCR Chief Deputy Secretary, Adult Programs. “Inmates too often leave prison with $200 minus the cost of a bus ticket, and no prospects for success once they return home. The goal of a secure community reentry facility is to ease the transition of local residents and improve public safety.”

By law, inmates are returned to their county of last legal residence. In practice, offenders come back to local communities whether they are rehabilitated or not. California’s rate of recidivism is one of the highest in the nation, with about 70% of parolees committing new crimes that return them to prison, commented Sheriff Bill Cogbill. “We see the impact of this on our own jail. Last year, convicted felons who were in jail pending new felony charges had an average of more than 3 prior felony convictions. There has got to be change in rehabilitation models and methods to positively impact the repeat cycle of criminal behavior and enhance the public’s safety.”

The informational workshops are important to raise local awareness of the secure community reentry facility models. Any final plans and agreements on these facilities will be negotiated on a county by county basis. “We are here to listen today,” commented Supervisor Tim Smith, who represents Sonoma County’s Third District, “but we recognize this is an issue that affects each community. There are a number of tough questions to be asked about the facilities models and programming approaches that would support maximum success and break the cycle of repeat offending. We are also cautious, given the mixed history of success with past state sponsored partnerships with counties.”

In May 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 900, the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007, a historic prison reform agreement. Chief among the provisions of Assembly Bill 900 are funding for 16,000 beds in secure community reentry facilities. These community-based facilities will have a maximum of 500 beds each.

Secure community reentry facilities will enable CDCR and local communities to create an unprecedented continuity of care to provide support services. Reentry facilities will be built in cities, counties or regions willing to partner with CDCR, to assist local residents who are required to be returned to the county where they committed their offense upon release.

These facilities will provide programs and services such as: intensive substance abuse treatment; vocational training and job placement; education and GED coursework; anger management classes; family counseling; housing placement; and, targeted services to help ease the transition from incarceration to a crime-free life on the outside.

This regional workshop was the sixth in a series of 10 statewide regional workshops that have been organized through October 2007. In addition, on July 16 CDCR hosted an online web seminar to discuss why community reentry facilities are important to public safety.

Invited participants to the Sonoma regional workshop were from Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Solano and Colusa counties, and included local government officials, sheriffs, boards of supervisors, mayors, city council members, chief probation officers, mental health professionals, drug/alcohol professionals, county administrative officers, police chiefs, district attorneys, county public works, community-based agencies, victims’ advocates, chamber of commerce, legislators, and association representatives.

Participants attended workshops discussing parolee programming needs, jail construction funding, and standards for reentry facilities.

Click here for more information on secure reentry centers, and the Governor's focus on rehabilitation through the new reforms.