Last week, county authorities opened two facilities in an effort to acclimate prison inmates on parole into society and reduce the percentages of repeat offences.
The two Day Reporting Centers are located in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, and are operated by nonprofit organization Community Solutions Inc., a Connecticut based group that oversees similar facilities throughout the nation. Both centers will provide individual guidance and counseling programs as an alternative to incarceration for parolees.
According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Public Information Officer Drew Sugars, the programs will include a range of assistive measures for parolees seeking help.
“What it attempts to do is, when they are let out of the prison, it lets them take classes to find a job, cope with anger management and for all the things that have given them problems assimilating back into society,” Sugars said.
Sugars also said alternative programs help reduce congestion in the prison system, which is a growing problem in California.
“Part of the overcrowding issue is the high rate of recidivism,” Sugars said. “One of the solutions they have is to offer these programs to lower the percentage of repeat offenders filling up the prison system.”
While these are the first of such centers Community Solutions has established in California, the nonprofit organization has similar programs and facilities throughout the nation that, according to Community Solutions Vice President Terry Williams, have a relatively high success rate.
“Our success rate in programs like this is in the 80 plus percentage, as high as 85 percent,” Williams said.
Additionally, Williams said alternative programs help parolees work within the community instead of draining taxpayers’ dollars for prison housing.
“They are not drawing on state funds,” Williams said. “It does cost money, but not as much as the state pays housing inmates in the prison system. You have people who help them get jobs, they are contributing to society and paying taxes and helping to take care of their families and raise their children.”
Some of the programs offered at the new facilities include substance abuse education, parenting and family reintegration, drug and alcohol testing, therapy and basic living assistance. Sugars said without special services, parolees are not likely to successfully adjust.
“It has pretty much been proven that you cannot just send someone back out into the public and expect them to function,” Sugars said. “These programs are necessary to teach them the skills they need to cope with society. We find it to be very effective and very important.”
Sugars also said the benefits of the program could prevent future crimes.
“Some people say that it is not worth paying to support these programs,” Sugars said. “But, in the long run, you will save money and lower the recidivism rate. You also have to think beyond and about the benefits to victims. These programs help prevent there being further victims and I think it is a win-win for everybody.”