Released inmates in need of housing, drug treatment

Released inmates in need of housing, drug treatment
From left to right: Judge David Danielson, Chief Deputy Public Defender Randy Mize, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Rodriguez and Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins discuss the Community Transition Center’s efforts to connect released offenders with services at the Community Corrections Partnership meeting on March 28. Photo by Rachel Stine

COAST CITIES — Offenders released from state prisons to the supervision of San Diego County’s Probation Department are in considerable need of housing and drug treatment according to initial findings from the county’s new Community Transition Center (CTC). 

Opened on Jan. 7, 2013, the CTC has assessed the needs of over 300 offenders released to county supervision under the state’s prison realignment laws.

The center connects offenders with the resources they need to meet their conditions of release, evaluate their health, and offers referrals for services including drug treatment, job training and housing.

“Reentry is a critical period for all returning offenders. Many have been incarcerated, away from their community for some time” said Supervising Probation Officer Karna Lau, who oversees the CTC.

The center transports released offenders directly from prison to its downtown San Diego site to complete the assessment and establish a case plan.

“By providing immediate assessment of risks and needs, and immediate program referrals to address those needs, it is proven to increase compliance to supervision, in general terms, and thereby reduce recidivism,” said Lau.

Within the CTC’s first few months of operation, 23 percent of the assessed offenders have utilized transitional housing and 15 percent have required residential drug treatment, according to CTC data. Lau presented this information before the Community Corrections Partnership, which oversees the implementation of prison realignment laws in the county, at its March 28 meeting.

Lau stated that the CTC aims to work on its general housing referrals to address offenders’ needs.

With 16 percent of offenders testing positive for drugs upon arriving at the center straight out of prison, the problem of drug use within state detention centers has become readily apparent to CTC officials, according to Lau.

“Are you finding that you are picking up people under the influence at the state prison?” asked Judge David Danielson at the meeting.

Lau stated that during a visit by CTC staff to Donovan State Prison two months ago, “I was talking to an inmate there. And I asked him, ‘Out of 10 people, how many smoke marijuana?’ And his response was, ‘12.’”

While it has no control over state prisons, the CTC provides on site detox and drug treatment referrals to released offenders.

Because the CTC has only been open since the start of the year, it is too early to tell if its services are affecting the rate of offenders engaging in criminal activity upon release from prison, according to Lau.

But since the center’s opening, the number of offenders who have failed to report to their supervising probation officers after their release has dropped to less than 1 percent.

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