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Model Program To Cut Recidivism Tricky To Expand

Aired 10/4/11 on KPBS News.

As San Diego County prepares to absorb thousands of criminals from the state prison system, a key goal is to cut down the number of people who violate their probation and end up back behind bars.

About 70 percent of those in state prison are behind bars because they violated their parole.

That’s why San Diego County wants to cut recidivism among prisoners being transferred from the state to the county in the next few months. They don't want to have to build more jails.

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Statistics for the SB 618 Reentry Program

Statistics for the SB 618 Reentry Program

Statistics on the SB 618 Reentry Program from ...

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis initiated a reentry program in 2006 to help offenders transition successfully back into the community from Donovan State Prison. The program, funded by SB 618, has cut recidivism for more than 260 offenders in the last four years. It offered drug treatment, education, help with housing and health care.

To qualify for the program, state prisoners had to agree to plead guilty.

Sheriff Bill Gore said he doesn’t anticipate that type of limitation anymore. The county hopes to enroll as many people as possible.

“There’s so many unknowns we will have to address,” he said. “You do risk assessments of all these people and see who is most likely to be successful in their rehabilitation efforts.“

All the prisoners moving to county jurisdiction are nonviolent, but there are 4,000 of them.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa Rodriquez said the existing reentry program with state prisoners is voluntary.

“We wanted to make sure that they wanted to get the assistance,“ she said. “Because then you are more invested in sticking to it. It’s a hard program - it’s harder than it is to just do your prison time, because things are expected of you and you have more community involvement.”

In other words, offenders required to be in the program would be less motivated.

Rodriguez adds that 85 percent of the offenders in the current program needed drug treatment. Drug treatment programs already have long waiting lists and there’s no guarantee the state will provide funding for more.

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