By David Liebler.
When it comes to innovative programs, the creative wheels are definitely turning in the Sacramento County Probation Department. As part of the county’s Adult Drug Court program, clients with transportation issues can earn donated bicycles. This incentive has improved attendance while helping clients get back on their feet.
Having transportation – even of the two-wheeled variety – allows clients to regularly attend Drug Court programs and other mandatory courses, get to their jobs on time and just participate in other aspects of everyday life we often take for granted.
In 2013, Probation Department staff started looking at reasons why some clients weren’t succeeding in Drug Court. Many of the roads kept coming back to the same issue: lack of transportation. “It hits a lot of different areas – people getting to treatment, getting to education, getting to employment … so we tackled that first,” explains Carol Paris, Assistant Probation Division Chief.
Drug Court clients understand that the bikes just aren’t going to be given to them. They repeatedly emphasize how the bikes must be earned by reaching certain milestones in their rehabilitation. And they also repeatedly emphasize how receiving a bike has helped them turn their lives around. For Tony Sanchez, it means he has the ability to get to his new job every day. For Vincent Wells, it gives him the ability to see his child as well as make all his appointments on time. “I wouldn’t be able to work or see my 4-year-old daughter without my bike,” Wells says. “It changed my life tremendously.”
“It incentivizes people coming into the program which is really the most important thing,” says Paris. “The bike is part of the program in helping them get to where they need to be.”
Since the bicycles are donated by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol and the nonprofit Cycles for Hope, the cost of the program is minimal. When you take into account the fact that the bike give-away program helps offenders successfully complete Drug Court rather than ending up back behind bars, there are actually significant savings on both the fiscal and human fronts.
“This program literally saved my life,” Wells summarizes. “It’s an amazing, amazing program.”