This month we are highlighting how the County of Santa Clara and their community partners re coming together to support offenders coming out of jails and prisons and supporting them in living a life that is free from violence. This is a great example of how government agencies, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions can come together to support people in creating a new way of living.
Lack of healthcare, a history of substance abuse, unemployment and often a need for housing are just a few of the challenges facing former offenders when they are released from County jail or State prison.
The Santa Clara County Re-Entry Resource Center provides essential support services and resources, such as health care access, alcohol and drug treatment, education, employment and housing assistance. These services are being provided to successfully reintegrate former offenders back into the Santa Clara County community, and are part of the strategy to reduce repeat offenses, as well as to create a healthier, safer community. Buu Thai, the Re-Entry Policy Coordinator says “Our goal is to have the RRC be a one-stop multi-services center where individuals coming out of the criminal justice can receive needed services.”
The data reveal that the County’s strategy is working. Historically, two-thirds of those released were rearrested for new offenses. This has changed dramatically, now, four out of five individuals are succeeding and have not had any repeat offenses since the program started on October 1, 2011.
“We have a new approach and are providing services in a way that has never been done before in Santa Clara County,” said Dr. Nancy Peña, Mental Health Department Director, who was instrumental in establishing the Re-Entry Multi-Agency Program. “Clients are taking steps to change their lives. Whether it’s career development, finding employment, addressing mental health issues or addiction challenges, or taking the time to map their road to long-term recovery, the Re-Entry Program is there to help.”
A big part of the Resource Center is the Faith Re-Entry Collaborative. The faith based organizations provide the former offenders counseling, food, resources, mentoring with trained volunteers,and support from 3 different faith based resource centers in the valley.
Cora Tomalinas, the chair of the Re-Entry Network, which is the board of community members and professional partners who are overseeing the development of the Re-Entry Resource Center, sums up the goal of this resource center, beautifully. She says “Sometimes we forget that prisoners coming back to the community are just as afraid, as some of us are, of changes wrought on each side of the fence. I feel we need to break through that fear by providing hope and support, in other words - LOVE.”