Yesterday, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved the creation of the Santa Clara County Reentry Network for offenders who have paid their debt to society. The Network will help the County to develop cross-system and comprehensive reentry and recidivism reduction strategies, including those needed to prepare the County for State realignment of parolees and low-level prisoners.

“The Reentry Network will pull together the many individual agencies that are working hard to reduce repeat offenses and prepare inmates for returning to our community,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa, Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee, who proposed the Reentry Network. “The partnerships we are forging will leverage our existing resources and help to develop strategies to build stronger families and safer and communities throughout Santa Clara County.”  

The Santa Clara County Reentry Network is a client-centered model aimed at identifying the needs of inmates in custody to link them with resources available through the County, cities, and community groups prior to release.  Right now, when inmates are released, they most likely face the same conditions of joblessness, illiteracy, violence, or anger that were present prior to incarceration.  Initial goals of the Network will be to provide assessment and effective programming in-custody and in the community, resources, and benefits to help inmates transition to a more stable, self-sufficient and successful lifestyle.

Diverse reentry initiatives are underway in Santa Clara County to target different inmate populations, including the chronically homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted, and women. Thanks to the leadership of Destination: Home, the Mental Health Department, the Superior Court, and the Office of Women’s Policy, the County has successfully secured grants to support these efforts.

“The Reentry Network’s cross-system collaborations will help us to respond to challenges ahead,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Vice Chair of the Public Safety and Justice Committee.  “With the State’s proposed realignment of parolees and the County’s criminal and juvenile justice system facing a $40 million budget deficit, we’ll need to draw on our collective expertise to break the cycle of incarceration.” 

A recently released report on recidivism by Huskey and Associates indicates that high-risk offenders should be targeted with evidence-based programming that takes into account specific risk factors.

“Our correctional landscape continues to change, and we need to respond to these changes with creative and innovative solutions,” said Santa Clara County Chief of Correction John Hirokawa. “This Network is crucial to help our county develop a new comprehensive vision and direction focused on reentry practices and programs.” 

The average jail population in Santa Clara County is 3,600 inmates.  Based on the jail population daily report, the maximum-security units in the Main Jail are regularly over capacity and in need of relief. These higher-level offenders receive minimal in-custody programming and currently have no coordinated reentry effort.

The short-term goals of the Network are to:

  • Conduct proper assessments to link inmates to effective in-custody and community-based programs.
  • Establish an integrated method to effectively transition inmates into the community.
  • Leverage existing efforts in the juvenile and adult settings.
  • Prepare the organization and its partners for State realignment of prisoners and parolees.

“A key element of incarceration is rehabilitation,” said Sheila Mitchell, Chief Probation Officer. “By approaching incarceration from this vantage point, we will help the population that we are here to serve to successfully transition into the community.” 

An important component of the Reentry Network is a partnership between the County and the City of San José Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force. Last October, the United States Department of Justice launched the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and chose San Jose as one of six cities to be part of this Forum. The Forum seeks strategic partnerships, realistic approaches and factual data to address youth violence. Last month, Supervisor Shirakawa and Probation Chief Mitchell joined the San José team in Washington D.C. to present the City’s Work Plan.  Reentry is now included on the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force’s work plan for 2011-2013 due to County efforts.

“Reentry is a complex process. The Reentry Network will be essential as we work to effectively combine existing efforts within the community and our criminal justice system,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. “Our goal is to improve the outcomes for released ex-offenders and to leverage the opportunities they have to integrate to society as productive citizens.” 

On March 1, 2011, Supervisor Shirakawa proposed the Reentry Network after a year of discussions with stakeholders.  On March 24, 2011, the Department of Correction and the Office of the Sheriff met with the Probation Department, the County Executive’s Office, the Office of Supervisor George Shirakawa, who chairs the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee, Custody Health and Mental Health, and three community based organizations to discuss a framework for the Reentry Network. On May 1, 2011, the Department of Correction recommended establishing the Network to the Public Safety and Justice Committee with a work plan and goals based on Supervisor Shirakawa’s proposal.

The 12-month Work Plan includes creating a reentry process in the County jail system that links the Probation Department, the Department of Correction and community partners; identifying existing reentry efforts related to County Jail systems; utilizing the Network to prepare for grant funding based on priorities and inmate populations; and partnering with the City of San Jose Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force to improve upon existing Probation Department aftercare efforts to strengthen juvenile and young adults up to 24 years of age. The Network also is planning for the impact of State realignment for parolees and inmates.