By Steven Tavares.
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is proposing half of the county’s allocation of state funding from prison realignment go toward community groups that help former inmates reassimilate into society.
Carson’s proposal comes as the Alameda County Board of Supervisors begin deliberating on the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
Starting in next fiscal year, Carson proposes half of the estimated $17 million in unencumbered prison realignment funds from AB 109 passed by the Legislature in 2011 from the state be allocated to community-based organizations for re-entry programs.
In the past, community-based groups have typically received less than one-fifth of AB 109 funding, which has ranged from between $30-35 million a year.
However, halving the pie of available money for community groups to help former inmates find jobs and housing amounts to around $8 million. Carson said his proposal makes good on splitting the total expenditure between the Alameda County Sheriffs Office and CBOs, but allocating an additional $7.5-9.5 million in funding to the groups.
In total, the amount of money in next year’s county budget for CBOs could reach nearly $20 million, said Carson. However, he acknowledged, the county and his office is still vetting how much money is available in the entire budget, which is due before the end of June.
Under the plan, multiple government bodies within the county would vet potential new community-based groups specializing in re-entry programs, said Carson, along with a county outreach.
“We want to make sure we multiply the opportunity for people to know the money is available,” said Carson. “With the scarce dollars that we have we have to make sure we have the most positive outcomes for people who are re-entry and reassimilating into our community form incarceration.”
Recently, county officials have felt pressure from social justice advocates who charge the sheriffs department receives a disproportionate amount of AB 109 funding that only bolsters efforts to incarcerate people. Last year, nearly two-thirds of the county’s allocation went to running county jails, while a lesser amount was given to combating recidivism.
Activists at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting appeared unimpressed by Carson’s proposal. At one point, they brought the meeting to a halt as activists approached the dais with a pledge to further cut the AB 109 dollars to the sheriffs department. Chants of “sign the pledge!” rang out.
Later, following Carson’s proposal, members of the group continued to shout down Supervisor Wilma Chan, who was presiding over the meeting in Board President Scott Haggerty’s absence. When they did not relent, Chan quickly recessed the meeting. The group then began singing, “Which side are you on?”