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Board OKs additional funding for center

REGION — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved over $2.5 million in additional annual funds to expand a job center providing services for realignment offenders at its meeting on July 16. 

The county’s RRC (Residential Reentry Center) is an alternative custody option for probationers and post-release offenders sentenced to jail terms. Offenders live in dorms at the RRC and receive job readiness training.

“The whole focus was to make the stay in the facility productive and not just warehousing,” said Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins. “We’re helping take some of the inmates out of the jail, and while they are out of the jail they can achieve some skills for employment.”

The RRC’s purpose is to reduce recidivism by providing offenders with the skills to be employable and find a job while they are serving time, he said. Furthermore, the county is able to free up jail beds by having eligible offenders serve their sentence at the RRC.

The RRC was established as the county faced an influx of jail inmates caused by the state prison realignment.

Realignment requires felons who committed non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex crimes to serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons; furthermore, offenders who violate the conditions of their parole now serve their violations in jail instead of prison.

The RRC, which is run by a private company, Correctional Alternatives, Inc. (CAI), contracted by the county, initially opened in April 2012 with 75 beds.

Since then, the RRC has offered evidence- and community-based job services to 710 male and female offenders, according to Deputy Chief Probation Officer Cesar Escuro.

So far, 54 offenders have secured employment while in the RRC program, but the Sheriff’s Department has not collected data on how many offenders who have received services at the RRC have been able to obtain jobs upon release, said Capt. Frank Clamser of the Sheriff’s Department.

As more inmates flooded county jails because of realignment, more inmates qualified for the RRC program and the center quickly ran out of bed space, said Jenkins.

Consequently, the Community Corrections Partnership, a collaboration of county leaders from the Probation Department, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and more created to address the demands of realignment, and the Board of Supervisors increased the RRC’s annual funding from $2.1 million per year to $4.7 million annually.

With the additional funding, the RRC has been able to more than double its bed space to 165 beds.

The funding, which is sourced from funds given to the county from the state for realignment purposes, will continue through the remainder of CAI’s contract to run the RRC for the county through June 30, 2017.

“It’s an excellent program and it’s done well over the years,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

The RRC helps our jail bed shortage, said Supervisor Ron Roberts.

On July 17, there were 152 offenders serving their sentences in the RRC, said Escuro.

Yet this number hardly compares to the county’s overall jail inmate population, which may rise even higher by the end of the year.

Today, there are well over 5,000 inmates total in San Diego County’s seven jails.

With the federal government requiring the state to release nearly 10,000 more inmates from crowded state prisons by the end of 2013, San Diego County may receive an additional 400 to 800 felons, said Roberts during the Board meeting.

County staff will return to the Board of Supervisors within 90 days to address the potential for more inmates in county jails.