With 40,000 inmates slated for release in the next two years due a federal court order targeting overcrowding in California prisons, what to do with all those convicts re-entering society is at the top of peoples’ minds.
(In fact, the state has to come up with a plan of action by mid-September, although it will likely appeal the order.)
This is on top of the nearly 140,000 inmates released annually to California communities. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also indicated that he’d consider the early release of even more inmates to help cut $1.2 billion from the state budget.
For years, the state’s more savvy cities and counties have convened reentry task forces to improve public safety by helping parolees transition more smoothly.
One of the most proactive efforts comes out of Alameda County — which receives about 7,000 parolees a year — and which has paid particular attention to the health and mental health needs of the formerly incarcerated.
In 2007, the county’s then-director of the Department of Public Health, Arnold Perkins, helped create the Alameda County Reentry Network, which includes elected officials and representatives from a variety of local social-service and law-enforcement agencies.
At their meeting in July, the group discussed a plan to direct health and social-service funding toward inmates who are supposedly scheduled for early release, creating a better system for parolees to access their medical records, and handle the many health issues that women and the elderly face when they are released from prison.
The Reentry Network’s coordinating council takes up the issue once again in Oakland on Thursday, August 20, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 pm, at the California Endowment Oakland Conference Center at 1111 Broadway, 7th Floor, Oakland.
Stay tuned for an update on their next move …