A public safety program that provides housing, medical insurance, mental health resources and substance abuse treatment to the reentry population has earned a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award for reducing recidivism in San Bernardino County.

The Public Defender’s Reentry Support Team is a collaborative partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) that works cohesively to provide comprehensive support to individuals returning to the community following incarceration.  

“Parolees returning to our communities face a wide variety of challenges,” said Public Defender Thomas Sone. “They need employment, housing, transportation and counseling. Our innovative Reentry Support Team works with these individuals to ensure they have everything they need so they don’t end up back in the system. By sharing resources, we’re able to achieve our goal of increasing public safety and reducing recidivism throughout the county.”  

In March 2022, the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s (SBCPD) Office created the Second Chance Unit, a team dedicated to representing parolees at their resentencing hearings. The Second Chance Unit immediately recognized that one of the most important aspects of a resentencing hearing is the ability to present a comprehensive reentry support plan to ensure their clients receive adequate assistance upon release. In response, SBCPD created the Reentry Support Team, which is comprised of a mitigation specialist, four paralegals and three office assistants. The Reentry Support Team also collaborates with those who have gone through primary and secondary generational cycles of incarceration to boost creativity, innovation, morale, and to encourage better outcomes for their clientele.  

The Reentry Support Team actively works to build a robust reentry network to support clients by attending weekly community events, meeting with community-based leaders, and collaborating with DAPO to access programs and services to assist their clientele. 

The Reentry Support Team also meets with  those on active supervision through parole and their family members to better understand their needs and to improve the client’s legal representation. Additionally, the Reentry Support Team regularly communicates with parole agents and community organizations to ensure that its clients have the support they need. This is not only limited to those who may be under county or state supervision, the Reentry Support Team also refers community members to local organizations for record expungement.

“Prior to the establishment of the Reentry Support Team, there was a lack of well-connected resources to support our reentry population and those existing were primarily limited to certain areas in the Inland Empire,” Sone remarked. “However, since the inception of the Reentry Support Team, we’ve been able to establish comprehensive support for our reentry population by collaborating with agencies throughout the county and neighboring areas who assist with housing, job placement and educational pathways.”

In terms of program outcomes, the Reentry Support Team has established connections with more than 50 local resources, including diversion programs, job assistance, housing, medical benefits, digital literacy, financial well-being, clothing, food, transportation services and mentorship.

The team has also helped more than ten clients gain access to treatment beds to reduce recidivism rates. Additionally, in the courtroom, the team’s reentry support plans have made a meaningful impact on resentencing hearings. The Reentry Support Team continues to follow up  on those returning to the community knowing that ongoing support is important to maintaining client well-being.  

For more information about the Public Defender’s Office and its services, please visit https://pd.sbcounty.gov/.

Additional County Update News – December 22, 2023

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