Alameda County supervisors vote to boost funds for post-incarceration services
on March 26, 2015
For several months, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has urged the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allocate 50 percent of their public safety funds to community organizations that assist people who have recently been released from incarceration. Their campaign is called “Jobs Not Jails.”
Their effort paid off Tuesday, when the board passed a motion requesting of the allocation of 50 percent of its 2015-16 public safety budget towards re-entry programs and services. These funds come from an allocation of state money stemming from AB 109, a 2011 state law that “realigned” the California prison system by moving low-level offenders from crowded state prisons to local jails.
Supervisor Keith Carson proposed the motion, and speakers from different community organizations and the Ella Baker Center urged the board to vote yes. “If you’re not investing in resources, a person will just go back to what they already know,” said Darris Young, referring to incarcerated people. Young was formerly incarcerated, and said he considers himself one of the lucky ones. After serving 17 years in state person, he found a reentry program in Berkeley called Options Recovery Services.
“Most individuals in jail want to do good,” said Young, “but there wasn’t enough for them out here.” He said, he believes people can have a better chance in life if they receive the services reentry programs and community organizations offer.
Now working as a local organizer with the Ella Baker Center, Young is working with the community in Oakland. He goes to schools and speaks to students about social justice organizing, and advocates for more restorative justice programs.
The funding proposal passed with three supervisors in favor, and one voting against the allocation of the funds. One supervisor was out of the room and did not vote.
“The general public is the first to say that ‘This is what we want, this what we see, and this is how it should be done,’” said Carson of why he supported the idea. “People do need mental help, jobs, and they do need help to reunify them with their families and their communities.”
But it is not yet clear how much money will be given to re-entry support organizations, because it is not known how much funding the state will allocate to the county. “It’s challenging to know how much this 50 percent will be,” says Carson, “Last year the budget was $34.6 million.” He also said that there is an innovation fund estimated at $3 million that is already available to support small community-based organizations and to give them seed money.
In a letter submitted to the Board of Supervisors, Carson suggested that the county’s Community Advisory Board would screen the service providers interested in obtaining contracts, as well as establish guidelines for monitoring their effectiveness.
Organizers hope that the county’s funds will support the heath services, substance abuse services and employment opportunities. “Supervisor Carson’s proposal to support more funding for re-entry services for people coming out of jail will help folks reconnect with their communities so that they not just get out of the system, but stay out of the system,” said Zachary Norris, the Ella Baker Center’s executive director.
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