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PROPOSED LEGISLATION THREATENS TO DERAIL SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY’S INMATE WELFARE AND REHABILITATION EFFORTS

San Bernardino County Chief Deputy Public defender Thomas Sone, talks with a female inmate about her case during the INROADS resource/job fair at Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in San Bernardino, Ca., Wednesday, February 11, 2015. INROADS (Inmate Rehabilitation Through Occupational and Academic Development) is a program designed to help imates by providing inmates with necessary resources and services, that hopefully making re-entry into the community more successful. (Photo by John Valenzuela/The Sun)

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If SB 555 and SB 144
are enacted, they will eliminate funding for San Bernardino County’s
inmate welfare services and alternative sentencing programs.  Inmate
welfare programs are designed to address addiction, job training and
placement, along with family support services.  Alternative sentencing
includes allowing inmates to serve their sentence by serving short
weekend stays over a longer period.  Inmate monitoring allows inmates to
serve their sentence in their home through electronic monitoring.  Both
programs are designed to reduce the county’s burden by reducing repeat
offenders and eliminating the cost of keeping an inmate incustody. 
San Bernardino County has been on the forefront of inmate services and
programs for over 23 years and SB 555 will undo decades of progress
aimed at reducing recidivism through counselling, education, and other
services.
Our inmate service programs are overseen by a seven-person Inmate
Welfare Fund Committee made up of civilian members from the local
community, to include a small business owner, a pharmacist, retired law
enforcement officer, crisis intervention coordinator, a retired bank
executive, and a veteran’s advocate focused on education and training. 
This group authorizes the use of inmate welfare funds to make purchases
that directly relate to inmate services and educational programs.  Two
of these members have dedicated over two decades to improving services
for inmates.
These inmate services translate to real world success.  We have
partnered with the local construction and transportation industries who
facilitate training and certifications for inmates which has led to
well-paying jobs when they’re released.  Multiple graduates of these
programs have expressed their appreciation for the training and job
placement.  The success of these individuals has inspired additional
industry partners to reach out in hopes of expanding the program.
Our other support programs include, Parent and Child Connection (PACC)
and Teaching and Loving Kids (TALK).  Both programs are designed to
foster parent/child connections.  They encourage our inmates who are
parents to invest the time to learn parenting skills which will help
them to navigate their transition to their parental duties upon release.
In a recent impact statement, a department intern recalled her own
experience with TALK.  When her mother was incarcerated they were part
of TALK.  She credits her mother’s successful reentry to society as a
direct result of TALK.  These interactions inspired our intern to pursue
her education, so she could join the program as an administrator and
continue its positive legacy.
Similar to the SB 555, SB 144 will eliminate funding for our alternative
sentencing programs, Work Release and Home Confinement.  These
alternative sentencing programs register nearly 4,000 offenders a year. 
These offenders have been convicted of a crime and otherwise would be
in county jail for extended periods.  Alternative sentencing provides
these inmates the opportunity to maintain their employment and living
situations during the week while serving their sentences on the
weekend.  Consistent employment and a stable family support system have
proven to dramatically reduce the likelihood of reoffending.  These
alternative sentencing programs are supported by the fees paid by
individual offenders.  However, SB 144 would eliminate these fees and
push the burden onto the county.  This unexpected and unfunded liability
would require the county to reduce or eliminate the programs and take
away a viable alternative to traditional sentencing for our local
offenders.
Our county leadership remains committed to working with elected
representatives to craft meaningful legislation by providing context and
practical experience in how the application of these laws will affect
the residents of San Bernardino County.
Please contact your local elected representative in Sacramento and voice
your opposition to these two laws as they are written.  The unintended
consequence will be devastating to the advances San Bernardino County
has worked so hard to make.
For additional information including news, videos, and program
descriptions about the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s
Inmate Services, please access our website at https://www.sbcsdinmateservices.org/

JOHN McMAHON, Sheriff-Coroner
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department

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