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'Re-entry Court' Created to Cut Recidivism

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Prisoner Re-entry Program

October 12, 2010

Efforts to get former prisoners back to being productive members of the community got a boost today with the launch of the county's first "Re-entry Court."

The approval of a $1.5 million state grant that will fund the program was announced today by District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis, County Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts, Sheriff Bill Gore, Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins, Public Defender Henry Coker, the San Diego County Superior Court, Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate and San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne.

Video: Former inmate explains how program helped him.

“We continue to work together in San Diego County to stop the revolving door to prison,” said D.A. Dumanis. “This new Re-entry Court is the latest step in reducing prison overcrowding, holding offenders accountable and addressing the threat to public safety from parolees who continue to violate the law."

The $1.5-million grant was made by the California Emergency Management Agency and approved today by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

“In recent years, San Diego County has been a leader in prison re-entry programming and Re-entry Court continues that vision,” said Supervisor Roberts. “This is an important step toward ensuring public safety at a time when the state continues to shift the responsibility for supervising parolees back to the local level.”

Each year, about 8,000 prison inmates are released and returned to San Diego County. Because of changes in the law and early release of prisoners, the number of parolees returning to San Diego County is increasing. At the same time, prison substance abuse treatment and job training programs have been cut. About 70 percent of parolees who return to our community re-offend within three years and return to prison, the majority with substance abuse and mental health issues. Thus far, San Diego County’s Prisoner Re-entry Program, known as SB618, early indications show a reduction in that recidivism to about 20 percent.

Re-entry Court will only be available to some defendants who have committed non-violent, non-sexual crimes while on parole, or who violated the terms of their parole. Participants must plead guilty and are held accountable, but are also diverted away from costly incarceration and into programs that will give them the tools to become clean, sober and productive citizens. Participants are rigorously monitored by the court and law enforcement.

“The taxpayer has been footing the bill to keep the revolving door to prison open,” said Supervisor Cox. “Re-entry Court begins to close that door and saves San Diego County money in the long run.”

The yearly cost to house an inmate in local custody (county jail) is about $35,000 per year.  Re-entry Court lowers that cost to between $5,000 and $15,000 annually per defendant.

Re-entry Court is scheduled to begin in November and will be presided over by San Diego Superior Court Judge Desiree Bruce-Lyle, who has previously presided in Drug Court.  The Cal EMA grant will allow about 250 non-violent parolees to be diverted to R-eentry Court over a two-year period. The bulk of the funding will go to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency for substance abuse and mental health treatment.

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