By Stephen Pierce
A community meeting on Wednesday night will inform Vallejo residents on a proposed day reporting center project that seeks to improve the transition of former state prisoners back into their former community of Vallejo.
The information session will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Bay Terrace Theater, 51 Daniels Ave. in Vallejo. County officials are encouraging Vallejo residents, especially those who live near the proposed site at the County’s existing campus at 355 Tuolumne St., to come learn about the role of the day reporting center in a broader strategy to reduce offender recidivism through positive, sustained change in behavior.
“We are going to talk about what we need to do for Vallejoans coming home after they’ve served their time in prison,” said Supervisor Barbara Kondylis. “Experience has taught us that if we as a community don’t do something to help change their outlook on life and the options they see for themselves, we can count on them committing new crimes and going back to jail.”
Under the proposal, the County would operate a day reporting center for up to 75 Vallejo residents on Post Release Community Supervision at the County campus at 355 Tuolumne St. in Vallejo. Post Release Community Supervision is a new category of supervision for parolees from the state prison system that are now supervised by county probation departments as a result of a statewide program implemented in September 2011, known as public safety realignment, that shifted responsibility for various public safety services to local jurisdictions.
The day reporting center will serve as a central hub for individuals on Post Release Community Supervision to comply with supervision requirements and to receive services designed to increase their chances of a successful transition back into their community, such as learning how to modify behaviors that lead to criminal activity and acquiring the skills necessary to get and keep a job. The participants will also receive services to address mental health and substance abuse issues as well as other social service needs.
The Tuolumne location was selected because all of the County services needed for the program were on the consolidated campus. In addition, the participants are already visiting the campus as part of their supervision by the Solano County Probation Department and the location was accessible by public transportation. “We want the community to understand what a day reporting center is and what it is not,” said Supervisor Linda Seifert. “It’s also important for the community to understand where the idea came from and who has been part of this collaborative effort that’s been focused on one common goal – making our community safer.”
Community input gathered at the session will inform the discussion of the proposal at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. If approved, the day reporting center is anticipated to open in February 2013.
Public Safety Realignment The day reporting center concept is part of a statewide change in how certain groups of people in the criminal justice system are handled. The 2011 Public Safety Realignment – enabled by AB 109 and several companion pieces of legislation – shifted to the counties some of the state’s duties and responsibilities associated with the sentencing and supervision of individuals convicted of felony offenses.
This was the state’s strategy to comply with a 2009 federal court order to reduce the state’s burgeoning prison population. “This fundamentally changed how we handled the people entering and leaving the criminal justice system,” said Solano County Chief Probation Officer Christopher Hansen. As a result of this “realignment” legislation, sentencing practices by local courts were altered, the housing of convicted non-violent offenders and parole violators shifted to county jails, and the supervision of paroled non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders became the responsibility of county probation departments.
In 2013, local courts will become responsible for conducting parole hearings.
When the state shifted these functions to the counties, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) estimated over the first three years of the new process about 370 offenders would return to Solano County under the new Post Release Community Supervision program. The CDCR also estimated about 324 offenders would be housed in the county jail due to parole violations or to serve their sentence locally in lieu of going to state prison. CDCR’s estimates were conservative. As of Oct. 31, a total of 425 offenders have returned to Solano County for Post Release Community Supervision.
An estimated 43 percent of the jail population is attributed to public safety realignment: 174 parole violators and 185 offenders serving former prison sentences locally. “The reduction in the state’s prison population is now a community problem. State officials believed local jurisdictions were better positioned to reduce the recidivism of their own residents,” said Hansen.
A key component of the realignment legislation was the requirement for counties to develop a comprehensive strategy on how to comply with the new mandates. The Board of Supervisors approved the Solano County Public Safety Realignment Act Implementation Plan on Nov. 1, 2011, which included the concept of a day reporting center as one of its effective service delivery strategies to address the offender population returning home under the Post Release Community Supervision program.
Community Corrections Partnership Organizing this local realignment effort over the last 15 months has been the responsibility of the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP), a cadre of local government agencies and community-based organization charged under the realignment legislation to manage this shift in responsibilities.
The overall objective of the CCP is to reduce the recidivism rate of adult offenders in the local criminal justice system. Membership in this planning and advisory body is prescribed in the enabling realignment legislation. The membership includes the Chief Probation Officer, the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, a County Supervisor or County Administrator, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Sheriff, the Director of Health and Social Services, the County Superintendent of Education, a local chief of police, a community-based organization with experience in successfully providing rehabilitative services to persons convicted of criminal offenses, and an individual who represents the interests of victims.
With that objective in mind, the Solano County CCP has held 20 public meetings to develop the various components of the Solano County Public Safety Realignment Act Implementation Plan. They made site visits to communities throughout the region to learn about successful programs in changing the behavior of people in the criminal justice system.
These site visits included touring day reporting centers, such as the center in Napa that opened in January 2009, to see how they operate and how the results were positively impacting those communities. “We were impressed with how the day reporting centers were achieving getting results,” said Hansen, who serves as chair of the Community Corrections Partnership.
As the realignment strategies developed, the CCP kept the Board of Supervisors informed. The CCP has recommended and the Board of Supervisors has adopted various measures to implement the realignment strategy, including re-opening an 80-bed section in the Claybank Sentenced Detention Facility to house additional population stemming from new AB109 population, increased capacity for Health and Social Services to provide substance abuse and mental health placements, and a researcher position in the Probation Department to compile and track the data necessary to monitor the new offender population.
Repeatedly, the CCP reiterated the role of day reporting centers as part of the overall long-term strategy. At its Aug. 28, 2012 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved hiring a consultant to provide technical assistance in establishing a pilot day reporting center in Vallejo.
On Oct. 17, 2012, the CCP finalized its Day Reporting Center Implementation Plan Framework and took action recommending the Board of Supervisors approve $1.5 million in funding to establish and staff the day reporting center.
The community statistics tell the story as to why the CCP recommended the first day reporting center to be located in Vallejo. Forty-one (41) percent of the 322 offenders currently in the Post Community Release Program hail from Vallejo, followed by 33 percent from Fairfield, and 14 percent from Vacaville.
A second day reporting center is envisioned for Fairfield after the Vallejo location is up and running. “Our greatest chance of success is to bring the programs and services to the offenders,” Hansen said.
The final details of the day reporting center plan were outlined to the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 6, 2012. It focused on eight core elements needed for a successful program. They include:
· Cognitive behavioral groups using evidence-based programs.
· Mental health/ substance abuse assessments tools using evidence-based practices.
· Mental health/ substance abuse treatment groups using evidence-based practices and certified addiction counselors and peer mentors.
· GED, high school diploma and literacy services. · Job readiness training and employability skills.
· Drug testing.
· Eligibility benefits and other social services - both online self-service and in-person benefit assistance.
· Transportation and housing assistance.
“This is a positive for Vallejo,” said Supervisor Seifert. “We expect the program to improve the safety of our community by reducing criminal activity.”
Additional information about the day reporting center plan can be found on the Probation Department website under Community Corrections Partnership or go to www.solanocounty.com/ccp.