Victories in Probation Terms, Jobs and Funds for Justice

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County (JRC) is continuing to achieve real wins for justice and opportunity in our county. The changes brought about by this coalition are critical in establishing just policies that ensure formerly incarcerated people have a chance to thrive, get quality services, experience less burdensome supervision terms, and have a real chance at a quality job. Urban Strategies Council is proud to be a founding member of the Coalition, serve as its fiscal agent, host its membership meetings, and provide staff support.

We wanted to highlight some of these recent successes and to celebrate the amazing work being done in our community.  Our federal government may be lacking compassion and love these days, but we’re proud of what our partners and the JRC members are doing to give all people a fair chance, to ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect and have access to opportunity.

Reduced Maximum Probation Terms from Five to Three Years

The Coalition has been a determined advocate for lowering the county‘s maximum terms of probation from five to three years.  Three-year maximum terms are consistent with national research on best practices and more in line with most other California counties.  Five-year terms created added hardship for people looking for work and other opportunities, as well as creating a long term burden from check-ins and increased chance for excessive technical revocations.  In April 2017 the District Attorney announced a change in policy to seek no more than three-year maximum probation terms, a major policy change also supported by our new Chief Probation Officer, Wendy Still.

More Realignment Funds for Community Based Organizations

The Coalition waged successful campaigns in FY 15/16 and FY 16/17 that achieved unanimous votes from the Board of Supervisors to set aside half of the county’s AB 109 realignment budget for community based organizations (CBOs).  Previously, CBOs had received about 20% of the realignment funding, in spite of providing reentry services such as housing, benefits enrollment and job readiness training.  For FY 17/18 and going forward, the 50% set aside for CBO’s is now permanent policy.  It is anticipated that the CBO share of the FY 17/18 realignment budget will be at least $21 million.

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1400 Jobs for Freedom

In June 2016 the Coalition won a unanimous vote from the Board of Supervisors to endorse and implement the ‘1400 Jobs for Freedom Initiative’ dedicated to hiring formerly incarcerated individuals into a significant number of permanent, living wage, fully benefited county and other public sector jobs.  The Coalition continues to negotiate with county department heads for a program design and implementation plan that maximizes benefit and access for the broad reentry community.

$1.7 million for Pre-trial Release & $1 million for ‘For Us By Us’

In June 2015 the Coalition proposed and won a commitment from the county to develop realignment RFPs for $1.7 million for pre-trial release services, such as community supervision which reduce incarceration. This also included  $1 million for ‘For Us By Us’ services, which are services provided by agencies whose staff comprise at least 50% formerly incarcerated people.  The $1.7 million for pre-trial release represents the county’s most significant investment in these services in recent years.  The $1 million investment in ‘For Us By Us’ is widely recognized as highly innovative and unprecedented for any California county and perhaps nationwide.  Grantees will soon be announced for both funding areas.

Community Advisory Board (CAB)

In the summer and fall of 2014, the Coalition played a significant role in helping to launch the Community Advisory Board (CAB) that advises the Community Corrections Partnership’s Executive Committee on policy, program and budget for implementation of AB 109 in the county.  A major outcome of the community meetings was a minimum 33% presence of formerly incarcerated members on the CAB.

Engagement

The Coalition continues to convene successful Town Halls where testimonies from formerly incarcerated individuals is presented to community members and county leaders along with demands to the officials for specific justice system reforms and for projects like the 1400 Jobs for Freedom Initiative.  These  annual Town Halls have filled local church sanctuaries to capacity for the past three years.

What is the Justice Reinvestment Coalition?

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County (JRC/AC) is composed of seventeen community based advocacy organizations. The JRC/AC is committed to creating a fair and just public safety system based on effective practices that invest in our communities, our families and our people.

Urban Strategies Council is a founding member of JRC/AC.  For more information on JRC/AC contact Charlie Eddy at Urban Strategies Council, (510) 893-1375, charlese@urbanstrategies.org.

 

About the Author:

Charles worked for forty years in nonprofit social service, public policy and advocacy roles. The last five years involved serving as the Director of Programs at Beyond Emancipation, Alameda County’s primary provider of aftercare services to young adults leaving the child welfare system. Since 2013 Charlie has been working as a consultant on criminal justice reform initiatives at the Urban Strategies Council in Oakland.

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