Reentry Roundup: Parole agents, service providers find success by networking, building social capital

Through extensive community partnerships and a commitment to rehabilitation, CDCR and the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) and Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP) are helping recently released offenders as they return home.

Welcome to “Reentry Roundup,” a reflection of this important work. Each quarter, we’ll take a look back at what CDCR staff, community partners and the returning population have accomplished, and share a sneak peek at what’s next for reentry in California.

Parole agents, CDCR staff and service providers participate in events statewide to encourage community spirit, giving to others, and promoting success after incarceration.

Do you have reentry news to share? Email the Northern Region Adult Program Unit at Jeffrey.Bigley@cdcr.ca.gov, Southern Region Adult Program Unit at Dave.Ayala@cdcr.ca.gov, or CDCR Headquarters at Kristina.Khokhobashvili@cdcr.ca.gov.

Bakersfield

For more than 30 years, First Congregational Church of Bakersfield has been providing approximately 25 parolees and their families in need with gifts for Christmas. Northern Region Adult Program Unit (APU) Parole Agent (PA) II Brian Mendoza reports 2016 was no different.

The process began in mid-October, when the church and APU PAIIs Brian Mendoza and Monica Delgado met to discuss setting up the event. Delgado and Mendoza sent out the information to the parole units, and agents submitted applications that included parolee names and gift wishes for his or her families. Once the 25 spots were full, names and gift requests were placed onto a Christmas tree at the church. Churchgoers chose a family to treat, and church staffers wrapped and labeled each gift.

Delgado and Mendoza decorated the Bakersfield Parole Office training room for the event, and on Dec. 21, parole agents went to the church to pick up the gifts and bring them back to the office. APU and parole unit agents donated food for the event, including hamburgers, hotdogs, sodas, chips, cookies and popcorn.

On Dec. 22, the event was held and a parole agent from the Bakersfield office grilled the food for everyone. During the event, Santa Claus arrived to greet the families. He was a big hit with the children in attendance.

“A lot of work and hours went into this event from the church and APU, as well as parole unit staff,” Mendoza said. “The 2016 Christmas Gift Giveaway was a huge success!”

The first-ever meeting of the East Bay Peer Reentry Navigation Network provided an opportunity for former life-term inmates to get to know one another and learn about services available to them in the community.

East Bay

More than 30 former life-term inmates gathered in January for the first-ever meeting of the East Bay Peer Reentry Navigation Network (PRNN), a program for former long-term offenders (LTOs), aka “lifers,” who have been found suitable for parole and release by the Board of Parole Hearings.

Eight participants are being trained as “peer reentry navigators” to serve as community liaisons, including speaking with currently incarcerated long-term offenders, outreach to community programs and one-to-one support with PRNN participants. At the first meeting, the group discussed employment, addiction, relationships, money management, health, criminal thinking and reintegration, with the navigators facilitating the group discussion.

Future meetings will discuss making and attaining goals, medical insurance and long-term employment, with presentations by community partners including the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), who will discuss the importance of maintaining good credit.

Fresno Caltrans Parolee Work Crew Program staff and workers gather for a photo at a spaghetti luncheon held in their honor.

Fresno

In October, Parole Services Associate (PSA) Celeste Van Anne and PAII Roxie Schultz from Fresno attended a spaghetti lunch provided by the Fresno Day Reporting Center (DRC) in appreciation for the hard work of the Caltrans litter pickup crew and the supervisors who oversee the crews.

The Parolee Work Crew Program provides transitional employment through litter abatement services for Caltrans. Participants receive life skills education, employment preparation, transitional employment, permanent job placement and appropriate case management, and retention services.

A DRC client and alumni was recently hired by Caltrans, the second Fresno DRC client to be hired on full-time by Caltrans in a month. Currently, 32 DRC clients are employed with Caltrans and in the private sector. Five are pursuing continued education through Fresno City College and Cesar Chavez Adult School.

Fresno Caltrans Parolee Work Crew Program staff and workers gather for a photo at a spaghetti luncheon held in their honor.

In November, Van Anne and Schultz were invited to a luncheon in which five women were awarded scholarships. The women are all furthering their education, and their efforts were honored by AT&T, Central California Women’s Conference and Central California Educational Opportunities Center (CCEOC). Last year, one of the scholarships was awarded to a female parolee who was participating in the DRC program.

The second annual luncheon was held to support the success of women in the community. CCEOC has been a faithful supporter of the Parole and Community Team (PACT), in which DAPO connects parolees with social services agencies and community service providers to help returning offenders plan for success and get the services they need.

“The event was very inspirational and was well attended with around 64 community partners,” Schultz shared. “It was an excellent opportunity to network and show support to the community and CCEOC.”

Fresno Parole also held a special provider fair for female offenders in March. Females Achieving Change Together (FACT) is a gender-responsive collaboration focusing on the unique issues women face. The gathering and resources provides support in rehabilitation and success in the community by bringing together parole and community resource providers to share information.

In addition to sharing important information, community resource partners also generously provide gift baskets, gift certificates and other prize drawing items for women attending the meetings. DAPO also provides gift cards to give away throughout the event.

“It is our hope that these efforts will inspire, encourage and spark a desire for rehabilitation and restoration,” Van Anne said.

A child smiles broadly upon receiving a bike for Christmas courtesy of the Butte Community-Based Coalition.

Oroville

Eighty children in the Oroville area had a brighter Christmas thanks to the Butte Community Based Coalition (BCBC) Annual Bicycle Giveaway.

BCBC is a CDCR-funded state-contracted program in which Butte County parolees, probationers and sheriff’s Alternative Custody Supervision offenders are taught job skills or trades to help them find gainful employment. The BCBC bicycle repair program provided 94 of the 109 bikes given to children in need Dec. 22.

Along with a new bicycle, every child was also fitted with a brand-new bike helmet, and then it was off to get a toy and a cookie or two, and a visit with Santa, who was also on hand to visit with all of the children.

“This is the third year BCBC has participated in this annual event,” reported APU PSA Karen Day. “Each year has been a tremendous success for lots of local children as well as for the participants who work hard all year long in preparation for this anticipated event.”

More than 70 formerly incarcerated people listen at the Tehama County Resource Fair in Red Bluff, where probation and parole officers, along with community providers, share information about successful reentry.

Red Bluff

More than 20 local service providers turned out to the Tehama County Resource Fair, hosted by the Red Bluff PACT. It was the biggest turnout yet, said APU PA II Randy Abney.

“We had an awesome showing of support by Tehama Probation Officers and DAPO agents,” he said. “It was a fabulous collaboration of services.”

Inmates at Folsom Women’s Facility listen intently to learn about services they can utilize once released to help them transition home.

Sacramento

The Northern Region APU hosted the first-ever Inreach Resource Fair at Folsom Women’s Facility (FWF) on Feb. 24. This was an opportunity for female offenders who will be returning home to get connected with gender-responsive resources to help them in their successful transition back into communities.

Service providers represented at the fair included child support services, family planning, victim restitution and other educational resources. More than 30 organizations attended the fair. APU Parole Agents and Parole Service Associates were in attendance to help provide guidance to inmates as they navigate the transition to parole.

Women at FWF have five years or less remaining on their sentence. The fair provided them an opportunity to learn how they can continue the educational and vocational work they began in prison once they go home.

Sixty-seven parolees attended the November Sacramento PACT meeting to connect with community service providers.

Northern region APU in collaboration with the Capital District, Sacramento parole field units, is also busy hosting the PACT meetings in the city of Sacramento. Sixty-seven parolees attended the November meeting to connect with community service providers, learning more about what is available to help them on their reentry journey.

Up next will be the New Frontiers resource fair for parolees and the formerly incarcerated, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, at Sacramento Community Based Coalition (SCBC) in Mather. The vendor and resource fair will feature employers, service providers, colleges, health screenings and more, along with lunch.

Via partners CDCR, DAPO, Sacramento Office of Education and Northern California Construction Training, SCBC is supportive, integrated program for men and women paroling to Sacramento County that provides the individualized treatment services necessary for a successful transition back into the community. Learn more at cdcr.ca.gov/rehabilitation/CBC.html.

More than a dozen community providers attended the Salinas Parole And Community Team meeting in November to share information about services available to the parolee population.

Salinas

The Salinas DAPO unit collaboratively hosted the meeting with APU PAII Joel Orozco. The newly released parolees are referred to attend each month to learn about services available to them – for the most part free of charge.

At the November PACT meeting, 14 community providers shared information about their services, including housing, substance use disorder, cognitive thinking, budgeting, life skills, anger management and assistance in looking for work. Each of the approximately 20 parolees in attendance was required to meet with at least three providers to discuss services offered, so they would leave the meeting armed with information to help them in the future.

Participants at the Taylor Street Center came out in a big way to provide new toys for children in need during the holidays.

San Francisco

December was a busy month for the Taylor Street Parolee Services Center (PSC), a GEO Group transitional reentry facility in San Francisco that provides participants with substance use counseling and mental health services, in addition to intensive life skills training such as anger and stress management, budgeting, cultural diversity and parenting. APU PAII Randy Krings works collaboratively with the PSC to support the needs of the parolee participants enrolled in the program.

Taylor Street’s first-ever Toy Drive was held Dec. 1. Program Manager Jason Carpenter received a list of children from United Playaz, a nonprofit that seeks to end violence in the community. Carpenter let participants know the plan was to get gifts for as many children as possible.

“Staff and participants went far above what was expected,” Carpenter reported. Nearly every program participant picked out a name and purchased a gift, and some purchased more than one. The center ended up with well over 100 gifts for children in need. Several of the participants even helped wrap the gifts and attended the United Playaz Christmas party to see the gifts be distributed to the grateful children.

“The participants and staff really came through,” Carpenter added. “If not for their generosity, most of these children, ranging from 2 to 17 years old, would not have received anything for Christmas.

DAPO’s Northern Region-Adult Parole Programs unit has been busy in San Francisco, where PAII Krings and PSA Sandoval ensure meetings of the PACT and PRNN occur and provide paroled offenders with information and support. At the November PACT meeting, five agencies including America Works and San Francisco Adult Probation shared great information and referrals to services.

Attendees learned about jobs, emergency housing, education, financial aid, food and reentry resources. The Salvation Army provided information about residential programs for men and women, and Narcotics Anonymous provided meeting schedules. Each attendee left with a “Getting Out and Staying Out” reentry resource handbook.

Another successful PRNN meeting, hosted by the San Francisco Parole Unit and APU PAII Krings was held in San Francisco, where 45 attendees and several community service providers discussed topics ranging from jobs and housing to health care. Two union members spoke about job availability, and the group discussed the San Francisco Below Rate housing program and the Transitions Program, which helps people newly released from prison who have chronic conditions establish relationships with primary care providers. The meeting was facilitated by Joe Calderon of Transitions and Montrell Dorsey, employment specialist with Positive Resource Center, providing services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

This meeting was attended by several APU PAIIs and PSAs who will be starting PRNNs in their own Parole Districts. Several attendees also spoke about their positive experiences through Healthright 360, a voluntary program providing residency and support services to parolees, and a few even expressed interest in becoming Peer Reentry Navigators (PRNs) to assist others on their journey.

Several service providers attended the Peer Reentry Navigation Network meeting in San Francisco to provide information about jobs, housing and health care.

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