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Flintridge Center is doing important work in reducing recidivism in men and women who are coming out of the prison system. They really see that every life matters, and that we have a choice to make when people are coming out of that system: to trap them in that rotating cycle by not giving them opportunities, by not giving them a chance. Or we can understand that there is a humanity and a worth to what they have to offer to be a contributing citizen and a valued member of our society. This kind of inspiring work is what Flintridge Center excels at.
Julianne Hines, Former District Director, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino
Formed in 2010 and coordinated by Flintridge Center, the Pasadena/Altadena Reintegration Council is a network of local service providers and public agencies working to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals who are returning to our community. The multi-sector coalition includes the Pasadena Police Department and some 30 partners comprised of community-based, faith-based, philanthropic, business, civic and educational organizations.
The Council’s purpose is to help the formerly incarcerated turn their lives around and keep them from re-offending. However, the risks of recidivism are high as these individuals face significant challenges. Upon release, prisoners are given $200 and sent back to the communities where they were sentenced, most with few skills and little means of support, many with mental health and substance abuse issues. Finding stable housing and a job with a steady paycheck can be difficult, and the temptation to return to criminal life is strong. Approximately 70% of those released are re-incarcerated within three years because of a new offense or parole/probation violation. Not only is public safety impacted, but repeat offenders strain the resources of law enforcement and the courts as the costly cycle continues.
One of the Council’s key activities is organizing and conducting the PACT (Pasadena/Altadena Community Team) resource fairs where the formerly incarcerated can learn firsthand about available support services in a welcoming environment. The Council began coordinating the monthly events in June 2011 after the Pasadena Parole Office could no longer fund the program. Each month, some 20-30 individuals receive information and referrals for housing, health services, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling, job preparation, employment, assistance with child support issues and securing a driver’s license. Under the Council’s management, the range of providers has expanded to include tattoo removal, dental care, case management and even on-site HIV testing. A free lunch and door prizes are added inducement.
The Council’s efforts also include creating a brochure of local resources to give out to individuals who are newly released into the community and launching a monthly ex-offender peer support network that is facilitated by California Drug Counseling, a Council partner.
One-on-one case management support is offered through Flintridge’s outreach coordinator. As someone who has transformed his life and personally understands the post-release challenges, he is quickly able to gain clients’ trust, assess their needs and connect them to helpful resources and opportunities. In addition, Flintridge received a grant from the Ahmanson Foundation to support case management for 45 ex-offenders. These services were provided by Council member Friends Outside in Los Angeles County, an organization that specializes in jail-based and reentry assistance.By linking ex-offenders to a comprehensive and integrated support system, the Reintegration Council plays a critical role in helping them successfully transition back into the community.
Comprehensive referral and rehabilitative services are needed more than ever with the passage of AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment bill designed to reduce California’s overcrowded prisons. The bill shifts responsibility from the state to the counties for the custody and post-release supervision of some 33,000 low-risk offenders. Over a period of two years, starting in October 2011, one third of these will be returned to Los Angeles County. This is a higher percentage than any other county in the state. The LA County Probation Department is charged with supervising their rehabilitation. But with realignment adding some 11,000 more ex-offenders to the department’s caseload, local municipalities will have the dual challenge of ensuring public safety while helping those returning home make a fresh start.
The Reintegration Council is strengthening and expanding the safety net of service providers. However, given these difficult economic times, many providers are stretched to capacity. Funding is needed to cover the costs of coordinating the Council’s activities and meeting the need for increased services. But compared with the costs of incarceration (more than $47,000 a year per prisoner) and the added public safety concerns, the price tag for effective reentry services is significantly less and has the added benefit of helping to stem the cycle of crime and incarceration.