Realignment has impacted communities throughout California by transferring the burden of care for prison releases from the state to local municipalities. The city of Fontana has documented an increase in its violent crime rate after the implementation of AB 109 in October 2011. The city created Fontana’s Re-entry Support Team (FRST) to help early release prisoners and individuals with a criminal record obtain services and training to help them integrate better into society. The team works with community organizations with an emphasis on finding employment for these individuals.
The violent crime rate for the city of Fontana grew 3 percent during the first year following the implementation of AB 109 and property crimes rose 22 percent for the same time period. Comparatively for the same time period, the state of California and the city of Fontana reported the following recidivism rates: violent crime 70 percent, sex crimes 90 percent and non-violent crimes 35 percent.
FRST is staffed by two sworn, full-time police officers, one part-time probation officer, one community policing technician (CPT), and one police sergeant. The team focuses on identifying re-entry individuals (clients) that are able to benefit from the program, as well as probationers and/or parolees that have tendencies to turn to crime if they do not receive some sort of assistance (pre-offenders). The partnership between the police and probation departments is a new approach to identifying potential clients and providing the various resource services available.
The program was developed to engage community and agency partnerships. The San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department (WDD), in conjunction with the California State Employment Development Department (EDD), provides re-entry individuals with a Reentry Workshop in addition to the monthly client meetings. An instrumental part of the re-entry process are the workshops that address employment barriers, including talking about a felony conviction during an interview, resume writing, appropriate interview attire , and where to seek employment.
Through FRST, participants gain confidence and learn to use the EDD center computers to complete on-line applications and training courses structured to assist in job placement. FRST officers also utilize agencies such as the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to get identification cards or licenses re-issued, Child Support Services, to arrange support payments in order to keep clients licenses valid and Social Security to assist with benefits.
Community partnerships are vital to the success of the program. The Water of Life Church in Fontana offers a clothing closet to the clients with appropriate interview attire, and shelter and food to clients that need it. The United Way’s 211 program is utilized to provide quick and easy access to numerous programs. Many other businesses and programs are also utilized to provide assistance and job training to clients.
The program’s structure encourages attendance and completion of specific training courses. FRST officers conduct monthly presentations at the local county jail to inform future clients of the program. The probation officer directs clients to FRST and local judges have begun to refer defendants sentenced to probation to the program. Once involved in the program, clients are tracked and continuously offered support and assistance as needed. Additional services such as free eye glasses from a local doctor to advanced welding courses so a client could obtain a better job have been utilized.
Since FRST’s inception in September 2012, over 408 individuals have completed the employment workshop attaining more than 170 jobs. The program constantly updates clients with employment opportunities and to-date has sent out over 1,409 job referrals. In addition, the program has referred over 723 people to recovery classes for substance abuse and domestic violence and over 360 people to government agencies (DMV, Social Security, and Child Support). Through partnerships with other supportive services, more than 387 people have received assistance from social services for food stamps and welfare to help during the transition phase of learning job skills and acquiring employment.
Other departments have started or are looking to launch their own re-entry programs modeled after FRST. The Rialto Police Department started their re-entry program in 2014 with the assistance of Fontana FRST officers. FRST has presented the program to the Pomona Police Department and the San Bernardino Police and Sheriff’s departments among others and all have expressed interest in starting their own programs.
The FRST program has also gained state recognition. Former Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) presented FRST to a judicial committee as an example of a different approach to probationers and parolees, an approach that provides a positive impact on the community. After the first full year FRST was in operation, the city saw an 8 percent decrease in part one crimes. The second year resulted in another 8 percent reduction in part one crimes. The impact of FRST has provided tremendous improvements to the community and the program continues to grow. With continued extensive outreach to clients and support from service providers partnering with FRST, the future of the program will continue to benefit the community, reduce crime, and help the rehabilitative process for early prison releases and probationers.