The Desert IndependentTM
Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001
Proposed legislation threatens to derail San Bernardino County’s inmate welfare and rehabilitation efforts
June 21, 2019
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif – If SB 555 and SB 144 are enacted, they will eliminate funding for San Bernardino County’s inmate welfare services and alternative sentencing programs. Inmate welfare programs are designed to address addiction, job training and placement, along with family support services. Alternative sentencing includes allowing inmates to serve their sentence by serving short weekend stays over a longer period.
Inmate monitoring allows inmates to serve their sentence in their home through electronic monitoring. Both programs are designed to reduce the county’s burden by reducing repeat offenders and eliminating the cost of keeping an inmate in custody. San Bernardino County has been on the forefront of inmate services and programs for over 23 years and SB 555 will undo decades of progress aimed at reducing recidivism through counseling, education, and other services.
Our inmate service programs are overseen by a seven-person Inmate Welfare Fund Committee made up of civilian members from the local community, to include a small business owner, a pharmacist, retired law enforcement officer, crisis intervention coordinator, a retired bank executive, and a veteran’s advocate focused on education and training. This group authorizes the use of inmate welfare funds to make purchases that directly relate to inmate services and educational programs. Two of these members have dedicated over two decades to improving services for inmates.
These inmate services translate to real world success. We have partnered with the local construction and transportation industries who facilitate training and certifications for inmates which has led to well-paying jobs when they’re released. Multiple graduates of these programs have expressed their appreciation for the training and job placement. The success of these individuals has inspired additional industry partners to reach out in hopes of expanding the program.
Our other support programs include, Parent and Child Connection (PACC) and Teaching and Loving Kids (TALK). Both programs are designed to foster parent/child connections. They encourage our inmates who are parents to invest the time to learn parenting skills which will help them to navigate their transition to their parental duties upon release.
In a recent impact statement, a department intern recalled her own experience with TALK. When her mother was incarcerated they were part of TALK. She credits her mother’s successful reentry to society as a direct result of TALK. These interactions inspired our intern to pursue her education, so she could join the program as an administrator and continue its positive legacy.
Similar to the SB 555, SB 144 will eliminate funding for our alternative sentencing programs, Work Release and Home Confinement. These alternative sentencing programs register nearly 4,000 offenders a year. These offenders have been convicted of a crime and otherwise would be in county jail for extended periods. Alternative sentencing provides these inmates the opportunity to maintain their employment and living situations during the week while serving their sentences on the weekend. Consistent employment and a stable family support system have proven to dramatically reduce the likelihood of reoffending. These alternative sentencing programs are supported by the fees paid by individual offenders. However, SB 144 would eliminate these fees and push the burden onto the county. This unexpected and unfunded liability would require the county to reduce or eliminate the programs and take away a viable alternative to traditional sentencing for our local offenders.
Our county leadership remains committed to working with elected representatives to craft meaningful legislation by providing context and practical experience in how the application of these laws will affect the residents of San Bernardino County.
Please contact your local elected representative in Sacramento and voice your opposition to these two laws as they are written. The unintended consequence will be devastating to the advances San Bernardino County has worked so hard to make.
For additional information including news, videos, and program descriptions about the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Inmate Services, please access our website at https://www.sbcsdinmateservices.org/
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