Re-entry and Recidivism Timeline
Neighborhood safety and security have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to thrive. Exposure to crime and violence has been shown to have negative impacts on a person’s overall quality of life, including their physical and mental health, and even how involved they are in their community. Crime rates in San Diego have been declining since 2010 thanks to the concerted effort of local law enforcement agencies and community partners to enact meaningful change in our communities.
A key strategy for reducing the rate of crime is to reduce the rate of recidivism, or the number of people who violate parole or commit another crime after being released from prison. Between 2011-2019, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department increased investment and expanded reentry services on a large scale to provide nearly 50 programs to support reentry.
Recognizing that rehabilitation does not end once an individual is released, community partners have put in place additional support structures to help individuals acquire skills and resources for re-entry into the community. Partners provide vocational skills training and employment services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, healthcare and housing services, and educational options, including life skills development.
In addition to rehabilitation and reentry services, another key component to reduce recidivism is to provide prevention and intervention services to at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. Between 2015 and 2018, the San Diego County Probation Department partnered with South Bay Community Services, North County Lifeline, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego, Mental Health Systems Inc., and San Diego Youth Services to implement their Alternatives to Detention services across the region. 91% of youth participating in Alternatives to Detention successfully completed the program with no new bookings during program participation. Changes like these have resulted in a steady decline in youth arrest rates, which fell 76% between 2008 and 2017.
In addition to the above interventions, local government and community partners have come together to address gaps, listen to community needs, and devise solutions to support individuals dealing with mental and behavioral health issues, homelessness, and access to services. In 2017, the Strong Families, Thriving Communities initiative brought together more than 100 community partners to examine challenges and identify solutions to make child welfare and juvenile justice systems more equitable for families and children. Together, they developed a Blueprint for Action, outlining 29 specific goals, including suggested system changes and timelines for completing them. In 2019, the County of San Diego brought together hundreds of stakeholders with diverse community perspectives to develop the Blueprint for Mental Health Reform to report recommendations for significant changes in how mental illness and criminal justice is approached in San Diego County.
Looking to the future, local leaders are invited to collaborate to continue to decrease recidivism and help formerly incarcerated individuals become productive members of our communities.
Partner Success Stories
Restorative Justice as an Alternative to the
Juvenile Justice System
The Restorative Community Conference, a pilot project of the National Conflict Resolution Center, is an alternative method to address juvenile delinquent behavior. Unlike traditional juvenile court and diversion, Restorative Community Conferences require voluntary participation of the youth responsible for the crime, the victim, and the community. All participants including the youth responsible for harm, their families, the persons harmed, community members, and community-based social service providers convene for a confidential joint meeting, the Restorative Community Conference.
The goals include:
Between 2014 to 2020, 298 youth were referred to the program with 167 agreeing to the program – 98% have completed the program and avoided detention with 82% committing no new offense within 3 years. Over 1600 people have participated in the Restorative Community Conference.
Strong Families, Thriving Communities
Brings Trauma-Informed, Mentorships and
Behavioral Health to the Forefront
In 2017, The Clinton Foundation, The San Diego Foundation, and the County of San Diego partnered to improve the health and well-being of children and families who interact with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems called the Strong Families, Thriving Communities initiative. Since the program started, the County has worked with more than 100 community partners to examine challenges and identify solutions to make child welfare and juvenile justice systems more equitable for families and children.
Together with its partners, the Strong Families, Thriving Communities initiative developed a Blueprint for Action. The initiative outlined 29 specific goals, including suggested system changes and timelines for completing them.
Significant accomplishments of the three-year coalition include:
County departments have focused their efforts to ensure that all staff receives training in trauma-informed care and an awareness of how biases impact decisions, relationships, and health outcomes for children and families in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Reentry Works Helps Inmates
Gain Employment Readiness
One of the biggest barriers to reentry for justice-involved individuals is finding employment. Through a collaboration between the County of San Diego, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and Second Chance, individuals can receive pre- and post-release employment and training services and gain access to community-based connections and supportive services through the Reentry Works program located at two of the county’s reentry facilities.
The program offers comprehensive career centers that help men and women successfully reenter the workforce and community. Partners help inmates gain employment readiness by providing help with resumes, interview skills, and attire and real-world preparation by providing help with life skills, housing, and transportation support.
“Our goal with the program was to [reduce recidivism rates] to 22 percent, which was aspirational,” said Peter Callstrom, CEO of San Diego Workforce Partnership. “After two years and 800 [participants], the recidivism rate is 11 percent. It’s working. It’s really promising.”
Project In-Reach Provides Treatment to
Keep Clients Out of Jail
The Neighborhood House Association has taken an active role in providing mental health care to parolees through Project In-Reach. The rehabilitation program has proven that the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse disorders keeps clients out of jail.
Through their outreach and education program Project In-Reach has achieved a recidivism rate of just 26 percent in the first 6 months after release. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a similar program, had a 47.5 percent recidivism rate for the same length of time in 2013. The program is currently offered at 5 detention facilities and offers a wide array of supportive services from housing assistance to counseling to clinical assessments.
A Community Conversation Beyond the Wall
In an effort to raise awareness about the challenges prisoners face upon re-entry to society, the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement at The San Diego Foundation hosted the San Diego premiere of the documentary Beyond the Wall. The film humanizes criminal justice system statistics with real-life stories about what life is like for those previously incarcerated when they return home.
More than 150 San Diegans from diverse backgrounds came together at the Museum of Photographic Arts to watch Beyond the Wall and to engage in community conversation. Following the film, a panel discussion with local experts shared insights on re-entry and recidivism.
As the Center for Civic Engagement has explored root challenges of recidivism, employment and education have been highlighted continuously as two of the most significant challenges facing individuals released from prison. Formerly incarcerated himself, panelist Robert Smith could speak first-hand about the importance of jobs and education during the re-entry period.
“As a person comes home, and I speak from experience, you rely primarily on your family. You’re coming home to stressed economic situations. By being able to come out, get a job, start working and be a contributing member to a family and community, you’re not just restoring their ability to earn income, you’re providing them with a platform – a dignified sense of, ‘I am doing good’.” stated Smith, now the San Diego County Director for the Center for Employment Opportunities, an organization that offers comprehensive employment services exclusively for people with criminal records.