County aims to reduce recidivism

San Mateo — Nearly half of inmates released from jail in San Mateo County — 42 percent — were rebooked within one year of their release, according to county statistics.

County officials say they are aiming to dramatically drop that number through the creation of a $3 million program that will provide inmates with housing, food, jobs and treatment — after they are released from jail.

The program will be largely funded through a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that will provide $677,000 annually; another $350,000 a year will come from the county. The money will be used to hire additional case workers to check in with former inmates and refer them to services.

Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, the chair of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Criminal Justice Committee, has been a vocal advocate for programs that support inmates as they re-enter society.

“These people are our neighbors,” Tissier said. “If they re-offend, it means they never got the appropriate attention.”

Stephen Kaplan, the director of the county’s Alcohol and other Drug Services programs, said while the county provides services for people who are placed in custody, the money will allow the Sheriff’s Office to support and offer treatment to former inmates who voluntarily agree to be in the program once they are released from custody.

“This will be more intense around the problem solving and providing resources,” Kaplan said. “We’ll be able to add some community service, alcohol and drug residential treatment and transitional housing.”

One of the most needed resources when inmates move out on their own is drug and alcohol abuse treatment, Kaplan said. The caseworkers will also address housing, employment and mental health services, if needed.

Funding for the program is coming as a result of the federal Second Chance Act of 2007: Community Safety Through Recidivism Prevention. Only 15 other programs or cities from a pool of more than 120 applicants were chosen to receive the grant this year, according to Kaplan.  San Francisco also received $1.8 million in Second Chance funding.

The goal of San Mateo’s program is to reduce recidivism, Kaplan said, by being a resource to the inmates after they are released.

Preliminary work that the county has done to assist inmates that are released into a treatment program has shown positive results. The percentage of former inmates that are rebooked after participating in a post-jail treatment program is less when they are provided with support from the county’s “re-entry” team: 41 percent compared to 47 percent without the counseling support. Still, county officials say, they can further improve the recidivism rate with more caseworkers, which the Second Chance grant will provide.

“With the implementation of the grant we will … be using case managers to work with people in the jail, help them transition and continue working with them in the community until they are stable,” Kaplan said.

The county has not yet received the grant funding, but when it does they’ll be ready to roll, said Kaplan, who said the local program will start by serving 200 inmates who will be chosen based on an assessment.

Assistance for former inmates

$3 million Total funding for three years for San Mateo County’s re-entry program

$2 million Funding that will come from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Second Chance grant program

$1 million Funding from San Mateo County

200 Inmates that will be initially chosen to receive added re-entry services with new funding

47 percent* Inmates who return to jail within one year after participating in a treatment program but not receiving re-entry services

41 percent* Inmates who return to jail within one year after participating in a treatment program and receiving re-entry services

56 percent* Inmates who return to jail for probation or parole violations

* Based on data from Jan. 1, 2008, to Sept. 15, 2008

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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