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Center Helps Parolees Come Home to Stay

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Day Reporting Center grant targets recidivism through reintegration

By Chris Levister –

When parolee Leon Mosley uncovers the electronic monitoring device tethered to his ankle, he jokingly refers to the $50 bet he made last month with a prison guard as he stepped through what is known as California’s notorious revolving door.

“He said ‘I bet you’ll be back behind bars in a year’,” recalls Mosley.

Mosley served 6 years and two months in the California Institute for Men at Chino for a non-violent drug offense he committed 8 years ago.

If U.S. Justice Department statistics are any indication Mosley has a nearly 60 percent chance of losing his 50 bucks.

“The odds are stacked against me,” he said. “It’s a vicious cycle for people like me.” He says despite the carpentry skills he acquired while in prison, employers are unwilling to hire him.

Statistics show 57.9 percent, meaning 1 out of 2 California inmates who are released will be back in jail within the year either because of a new crime or for breaking one of the myriad of parole laws and rules (such as failing a drug test or missing a parole appointment).

The fragmented resources available to help these ex-offenders reintegrate into society perpetuates a recidivism rate estimated at more than 70 percent in San Bernardino County, for example, creating a vicious cycle that has far reaching health, safety, economic, and social impacts on communities.

There are some people and some programs that are trying to chip away at the post-prison recidivism problem and make a difference. One such program is the San Bernardino Day Reporting Center, a program from Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Correctional Education.

The San Bernardino Day Reporting Center, speared by Mayor Patrick Morris is funded by a $1.2 million, three-year grant through the California Department of Corrections. The facility is expected to serve up to 300 recently paroled individuals per year over a three-year period, says professor, Dr. Carolyn Eggleston, the grant’s principal investigator and a co-director of the CSUSB Center for the Study of Correctional Education.

In June 2008, Cal State San Bernardino conducted a study of about 178 parolees in the city and it was discovered that about 95% of them were from San Bernardino, as opposed to a misconception that many parolees were being 'dumped' here from other locations.

“These are our citizens,” says Eggleston. “They are coming back to their home. Our goal is to keep them from going back to prison and to get them back to community life.”

“We want to help parolees successfully reintegrate into their communities after being released from prison. The day center provides the services they need.”

The center is not a live-in facility but rather a day site where clients can find the resources and services they need to get back on their feet and live productive lives in society. There are several other centers throughout the state.

Clients, who are referred by their parole agent, can find a wide variety of resources such as GED training, case management with transition plans; substance abuse education; as well as courses in anger and aggression management, pro-social relationships and free court mandated classes, such as the 52 week batterers class and other services.

In California, parolees are released from prison with a small amount of “gate money” and ordered to report to a local parole office within a few days.

Eggleston says little or no time has been spent prior to release to assist the inmate in obtaining employment or training necessary for success on “the streets.”

The majority of inmates leave prison without savings, without immediate entitlement to unemployment benefits, and with poor prospects for employment. Parolee statistics are alarming: a) 70-80 percent unemployment rates, b) 85 percent substance abuse rate, c) 50 percent illiteracy rates, and d) 60-90 percent of parolees lack the “survival skills” necessary to succeed, said Eggleston.

She said the center has already seen some successes for the parolees as potential employers have approached the center looking for workers. She added that a construction company recently hired about 25 of their clients for temporary work.

“It only goes for a month, but the potential is there,” Eggleston said. “Every little bit helps.”

“Most people don’t know what’s it’s like to be released from prison, then try to straighten out your life in the outside world with little or no money and no job, trying to make your way in a society that is highly distrustful of you,” says Mosley.

Eggleston said the problem many clients face is what is commonly referred to as a 'catch 22' situation, in which a person finds themselves in a double bind; they don't meet criteria for a certain requirement, yet can't comply because they don't have the necessary resource.

For example, a client may have a suspended license due to child support non-compliance, but they may not have the transportation they need to get around to take care of the problem and failure to comply with all parole requirements may send them back to prison.

The San Bernardino Day Reporting Center is one of nine in the state and the only one operated in cooperation with a university. Both Dr. Eggleston and her husband Dr. Tom Gehring have over 30 years experience in correctional education.

Currently the CDRC Day Reporting Site San Bernardino is available only to clients who live in San Bernardino. The center is located at 1465 S. D Street in San Bernardino. Their number is (909) 327-2981.

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