This blog posting and video are part of a series being produced by CSAC to highlight county best practices through our annual Challenge Awards. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The programs being highlighted are recipients of the 2012 awards. The Call for Entries for the 2013 CSAC Challenge Awards has been distributed; the entry deadline is June 28, 2013.
To review a video about how Glenn County is meeting the challenge, click here.
When California’s 58 counties began to tackle the challenges imposed by AB 109, the public-safety realignment of 2011, Glenn quickly became the “little county that could.” Through its Community Re-Entry Work (CREW) Program, Glenn is reducing recidivism, turning ex-offenders into contributing members of society – and saving the county money in the process.
In Glenn County, individuals now have a choice between receiving general assistance for three months or enrolling in CREW. The latter option is a 12-month program the provides ex-offenders the opportunity to receive assistance in a variety of areas, from housing and employment assistance to life skills and education. As Community Services Manager Lucy Hernandez is quick to explain, “It’s not a hand out; it’s a hand-up program.”
CREW is making a difference; success stories are not hard to find as individuals who have completed the program have been able to re-enter the community. Take the story of Shilee Cloud. Behind bars for most of her adult life due to drugs, Cloud was a classic poster child for the recidivism that plagues our correctional system. And then along came the CREW Program that has helped Cloud turn her life around. She now goes to school, owns her own business and is drug free. Rather than taking from society, she is contributing to it. She is also hiring other CREW participants and helping them along the way.
“These people are being reconnected to the community,” adds Rick Beatty, deputy chief with the Glenn County Probation Department. “Re-entry wise they are not feeling left out. They believe that people are out there to help them. “
The program’s Mission Statement reads, “Maximizing partnerships and resources to embrace, empower and engage re-entry individuals to reduce recidivism.” Staff is putting this statement into practice. By developing a program that utilizes numerous county resources while engaging the community, Glenn is able to start turning lives around.
“The CREW program is all about collaboration,” says Scott Gruendl, Director of the Glenn County Health and Human Services Agency. A small, rural county such as Glenn would face significant challenges in successfully implementing realignment unless there was a different approach. For starters, three internal teams across county departments were created, breaking down silos in the process. The end result is that each individual in the CREW program is looked at – and assisted – through the collective resources of numerous county staff during regular meetings.
“The program is designed to involve the individual, community and agencies to work as one to build that foundation in a holistic approach,” explains program specialist Pedro Bobadilla.
In the process, the county is seeing General Fund savings as fewer individuals are signing up for General Assistance. With the criminal-justice savings associated with reduced recidivism, staff estimates CREW is saving the county millions of dollars.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Gruendl gives this program a 12. “Individuals we once perceived as too difficult to re-integrate into society and we needed to build facilities around them are becoming fully employed, owning their own homes, taking care of their own housing, and better yet, 20 percent of them are starting their own businesses and hiring other people.”
For the staff behind CREW, its success has created the unforeseen challenge of meeting the demands of other agencies who want to learn more. Staff is frequently asked to present CREW at regional, state and even national meetings and conferences. CSAC also recently profiled the program as part of its “Smart Justice” video series that focused on public-safety realignment success stories.
Glenn County staff is more than happy to take on all the additional challenges the CREW program presents. “You can break cycles for generations,” Bobadilla says.