Reentry Center to help ex-prisoners in West County
on January 31, 2014
To help individuals coming out of incarceration reintegrate into the community, the Reentry Solutions Group this week unveiled plans to open a one-stop center in West Contra Costa County.
Huge challenges await ex-offenders, from finding a job to rebuilding relationships. Rebecca Brown, director of the group, said that the community asked for the Reentry Center as a way to help ex-convicts and their families face these challenges.
A major driver of the need is AB109, the state’s three-year-old realignment program, which is aimed at reducing California’s overcrowded prison system. The law has led to the release of more than 1200 inmates back into the county since 2011, according to the probation department.
The center — which still lacks a site — will offer clients resources for housing, employment, counseling and treatment all in one place. The concept is also being adopted in Central and East Contra Costa County.
“When someone gets home from prison, instead of having to run all around the world, they can find all these services in one place,” said LaVern Vaughn, an ex-felon and founding member of the Safe Return Project. “It helps makes the steps easier.”
Nearly 100 people attended the Tuesday meeting. Brown, looking celebratory in a floor-length olive green dress, joked that the group’s broad attendance was boosted by a hearty lunch of steak sandwiches. “We don’t play with steak,” she quipped.
Reentry Solutions Group’s mission is to aid individuals who are coming home from incarceration. Part of a Richmond corporation called Further the Work that assists nonprofits, the group began meeting in July 2011, and is open to anyone who has an interest in prisoner reentry.
For the center, the Reentry Solutions Group sought ideas from diverse stakeholders including community organizations, law enforcement, church leaders, educators, healthcare practitioners, formerly incarcerated persons, crime victims, and elected officials – all of whom Brown acknowledged.
“We respect all your voices and perspectives,” she said.
Before handing out impressive-looking binders detailing the plan, Brown explained the “collective impact” philosophy behind the center. “The work has to be integrated,” she said. “There are some things you can do collectively that you can’t do individually.”
Brown also urged patience. When a resident asked where the center would be located, Brown said, “We don’t have a site yet. The county wants a real place with a real door, but we can’t just will it into being. It’s nothing that anybody can rush.”
Once the plan is formally approved, the county will start seeking bids from providers. “The hope is that the center’s organizational host or operator will be identified by June, with the site to be determined after that,” Brown said.
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