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Cash Payments and Support Services: Comprehensive New Re-Entry Program in California

08 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Released Californian inmates to receive $2,400 in direct cash aid and comprehensive support in a first-of-its-kind re-entry program.

Cash Payments and Support Services: Comprehensive New Re-Entry Program in California - Inmate Lookup

Under a pioneering re-entry program, hundreds of Californians who have been released from prisons may be eligible to receive direct cash payments of $2,400, coupled with job search assistance, counseling, and other relevant support.

The program, a first-of-its-kind initiative nationally, is designed to facilitate a smoother transition out of incarceration and address the challenge of recidivism.

Recipients are set to receive the cash payments incrementally, contingent upon meeting specific milestones such as making progress in securing places to live and work, as detailed by the program overseen by the Center for Employment Opportunities.

Samuel Schaeffer, the CEO of the national nonprofit aiding individuals leaving incarceration, emphasized the initiative’s focus on the critical early days after release, aiming to cover essential needs such as transportation and food. Schaeffer noted that the risk of recidivism is particularly high during the first three to six months post-release, making it crucial to connect individuals with immediate services and financial support.

The Workforce Development Board, dedicated to enhancing the state’s workforce, is contributing a substantial $6.9 million grant to bolster community-based organizations and expand re-entry services for those formerly incarcerated in California prisons.

Approximately $2 million of this grant will be directly allocated to the formerly incarcerated in the form of $2,400 in cash payments each, with the funds distributed incrementally upon achieving specified milestones. These milestones include engaging in employment interview preparation meetings, making progress toward industry credentials, and creating a budget, among others.

Schaeffer expressed the belief that this new program represents a “game changer” and hopes it will serve as a model for other states to adopt. He shared that his organization collaborates with local groups to distribute money and coordinate services, drawing on the experience gained during a test run amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when direct payments were distributed to about 10,000 people facing financial difficulties.

Schaeffer stated that the Center for Employment Opportunities is advising its partners to implement strict eligibility requirements for receiving payments in order to achieve equitable access to the funds. There are no restrictions on how the money may be used, save for fulfilling the predetermined milestones.

Advocates underscore the challenges faced by individuals returning from incarceration, with around 60% estimated to remain unemployed within the first year of returning to their communities.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale focusing on justice system matters, expressed support for efforts to reduce recidivism but voiced concerns about the program’s accountability and tracking progress to ensure taxpayers receive value for their money.

Schaeffer anticipates flexibility in refining the program as it rolls out, aiming to continually enhance its effectiveness.

Carmen Garcia, formerly incarcerated and now the director of Root & Rebound, a nonprofit offering legal advocacy for those leaving prison, expressed a desire for the expanded program to extend crucial services to more individuals working to rebuild their lives after incarceration.