During the pandemic, the already-high number of people being released from California’s jails and prisons soared. Now, several state officials have joined service providers to launch a program aimed at helping formerly incarcerated people reenter society.
Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan and Mia Bonta recently started the Re-Entry Providers Association of California (REPAC), which aims to equip reentry service providers with resources as they help those re-entering society.
However, those providers say their programs have been chronically underfunded by the state, having to “fight for those resources” while the state spends more on incarceration than it does on higher education, according to Bryan.
“Ninety-five percent of folks who are incarcerated are coming home at some point,” he said at an event to mark the start of the program. “When they come home, the quickest thing to rebuilding your life is having stable employment and stable housing, education and behavioral health [and] mental health services.”
Durazo said during the conference that REPAC is intended to be the “essential unified voice that we need to really help shape the conversations that are taking place all over the state,” and plans to seek more funding to provide resources like job training, education opportunities and housing for ex-convicts as well as lobby lawmakers to review state laws, regulations and policies.
In May, California approved emergency COVID-19 regulations for prisoners’ good behavior credits, making about 76,000 prisoners eligible for earlier release based on their credits.
This allowed prisoners who were serving time for a violent offense to become eligible for credits that can be applied toward one-third of their sentences, instead of the previous one-fifth; this includes inmates who were serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.
As a result of the emergency regulation changes, some California lawmakers argue that helping ex-convicts get jobs and housing is more important than ever.
REPAC’s founding members include reentry service provider organizations such as Amity Foundation, Californians for Safety and Justice, A New Way of Life, the Los Angeles Area Re-Entry Partnership, and others.
The event took place at the Amity Foundation, which serves 200 people daily to “receive health care services, employment services, treatment services, and engage in self-actualization [processes],” according to Amity Foundation CEO Doug Bond.
The response to the state’s release of tens of thousands of prisoners, in line with the emergency regulations, has been mixed, with some arguing that more assets should go to law enforcement as a result of the regulation changes.
“We’re releasing all these prisoners but we’re not putting any additional assets not only into law enforcement … but also into probation and parole,” San Clemente City Councilmember Gene James told the Epoch Times in a previous interview. “What kind of post-incarcerated supervision are these ex-convicts going to have when they get into the community?”
Some law enforcement officials opposed the changed regulations as well, with the Orange County district attorney, along with 43 counties, filing a civil lawsuit against the early release of inmates.
A spokesperson for REPAC didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.