Oakland assemblyman wants to lift food stamp ban for ex-drug felons

A new bill authored by Oakland State Assemblyman Sandre Swanson could lift the ban preventing former drug offenders from receiving food stamps. “It is the right thing to do,” Swanson said, adding that California invests millions of dollars supporting prisoners that are released, only to find them returning within a couple of years.

Alameda County prepares for influx of inmates as state reduces prison population

Alameda County’s incarceration system may struggle to support the coming influx of inmates this July as California shifts the supervision of its prisoners from state to local facilities in order to meet a court-ordered prison population reduction strategy. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California’s 33 prisons has caused conditions that amount to “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling ordered California to reduce its prison population by 32,000 over the…

County program helps residents’ clean up their criminal records

Mike H. had been waiting for half an hour to hear his name called by an intake counselor at the Rubicon Legal and Economic Service Center in Richmond. But he was in no rush. He had been waiting for over 30 years for this; Saturday was the closest he’d ever been to getting his criminal record dismissed.

Oakland nonprofit helps parolees land on their feet

Veronica Hays stares out the window of a 12-person van cruising down I-580. In front and behind her, other passengers chat quietly with one another. Riding in a van with other parolees like herself on their way to volunteer has become a regular Saturday routine for Hays. This week they’re heading to the Alameda Food Bank where they will spend the afternoon organizing food donations. For Hays, just the thought of her sitting in this van, sober and out of prison, is enough to make her smile.

Jobs scarce for released inmates, Oakland’s working poor

When James Smith was released on parole in 2007, the Department of Corrections gave him $200 and pointed him out the door—he had no support, nowhere to go, nothing but the clothes on his back. It had been years since he had been on the outside. In a matter of months, Smith was asking his parole officer whether he could be sent back to prison rather than finish parole. Without a job, life outside proved to be difficult—too uncertain. “I couldn’t find a job,” said the 45-year-old Oakland native. “It’s like being a pariah.”

As more Oakland youth join the sex trade, law enforcement explores alternatives to incarceration

For decades, the law enforcement and justice systems have treated juvenile sex workers as criminals, not victims, arresting and locking them up. Now the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and an Oakland nonprofit that works with sexually exploited youth are exploring alternatives to incarceration. But what’s the best way to do it?