The state system wasn’t working. The decades-old model of incarcerating those convicted of crimes and simply letting them serve their sentences was producing an expensive and ineffective cycle of people leaving custody and engaging in behaviors that returned them to jail. The perpetual recycling of lower level felony offenders through the state correctional system had a 3-year post-release failure rate of 67 percent.
In 2011, the state of California passed landmark legislation – AB 109, also known as Public Safety Realignment – that shifted the responsibility from the state to the counties for tens of thousands of offenders.
While felons convicted of serious, violent and aggravated sex offenses continue to serve their time in the state system, sentences for hundreds of lower-level felony sentences are being served locally in county jails or under Probation supervision.
On Tuesday, the Placer County Board of Supervisors took a large step towards expanding options in the county’s local criminal justice system in order to meet the demands of Realignment and recent legislation.
The board approved a contract with the Sacramento Office of Education to provide critical re-entry and educational services to the jail and probation populations based on their proven track record of providing these services in Sacramento and Yolo counties. The opening of the Placer County Re-Entry Program (PREP) will avail the targeted population with services to help this population transition into law-abiding, productive members of society and stop the revolving door that many offenders travel after release from incarceration.
“Over the last 24 years working in the probation field, I have personally supervised thousands of low to high risk adult and juvenile offenders and regardless of their age, I have never had a person tell me that their goals and ambitions in life were to become a criminal, spending a lifetime embedded in the justice system,” said Placer County Chief Probation Officer Marshall Hopper. “In fact, almost all of the conversations revolved around an event or a poor decision that eventually led them through the door of the justice system. This program will reopen the door for people who want to change their life while enhancing offender accountability and promoting safer communities.
“The Placer County Re-Entry Program will provide both in and out of custody services to offenders as they transition back into our community. The partnership between Probation, the Sheriff’s Office, Health and Human Services and the Sacramento County Office of Education will serve as the foundation of this crucial program.”
Realignment necessitated a radical change in how Placer County deals with its growing offender population. The county initiated a comprehensive study, reviewed data on the characteristics of the offender population and the current program resources, and recommended adjustments in policies and resources to reduce recidivism and to improve system effectiveness.
To reverse the recidivism that had become the hallmark of the state’s criminal justice system, the county has begun implementing programs that first identify the needs of those both in- and out-of-custody and then develop individually tailored, evidence-based intervention programs.
These interventions include cognitive behavioral thinking classes; substance abuse education; treatment referrals; job training; mentorship and employment placement; education and G. E. D. preparation; life skills; and anger management along with relational and family skill development. These services will be deployed at 3 sites: In-custody services will be provided at the South Placer Adult Correctional Facility and Auburn Adult Correctional Facility; and out-of-custody services will be provided at the PREP Center in the Santucci Justice complex. The PREP Center site will also provide re-entry services to offenders in the Tahoe region and other remote locations via Skype or other electronic communication services.
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