Bari Caine-Lomberto is executive vice president of Behavioral Systems Southwest, the agency that is proposing the federal residential re-entry center in south Sacramento.

Viewpoints: Residential center would bring jobs, law enforcement, other benefits

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Many people have expressed their concern about the plan to turn an apartment building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard into a halfway house for federal offenders and probationers, and many people have been supportive of this project. The common denominator to both groups is that the people talking about this project are passionate about the community of south Sacramento.

We hear, "Why this neighborhood; why this property?"

Our response is that this neighborhood has a need for a residential re-entry center. The center would not only provide programming for ex-offenders returning to this neighborhood, but it will also provide support to the community by increasing law enforcement presence, bringing jobs and engaging in community partnerships to enhance the neighborhood – all of which we do in every neighborhood that we have a center or other residential program.

Support of this project means that you want jobs brought to south Sacramento. Behavioral Systems Southwest, the agency proposing the project, will bring 21 long-term jobs, including administrative positions, case management, security, cooks and maintenance. The agency offers full medical coverage to its employees, paid vacation annually, paid sick time and a 401(k) retirement plan as benefits. BSS will bring a multitude of short-term construction jobs to south Sacramento, as well, in order to accomplish the modifications required by Sacramento County planning, fire and other regulatory agencies.

Supporting this project means that you want those ex-offenders from in and around Sacramento County to have structure, guidance, discipline and focus while slowly reintegrating back into their own community. Support means you want these ex-offenders to learn skills, enable them to support themselves and their families, enable them to begin parenting their children, being partners in relationships, being positive contributing members of society – all which they can accomplish at the center.

The ex-offenders who would come through the doors are people who wish to come home, not to damage the community. They wish to be a part of their families, not reoffend and go back into the prison system. They do not come into a program to hurt anyone. They do not come into the center to create problems. They do not come to commit more crimes. They come into the program to go home; to become your neighbors.

Whether or not the center is there, they are coming home to Sacramento County, to south Sacramento. Behavioral Systems Southwest has been providing counseling and rehabilitation programs for 42 years and is acutely aware of the needs of the population and how our efforts assist those receiving services to become productive members of their community – your community of south Sacramento and others around south Sacramento.

Behavioral Systems Southwest has provided to the Planning Department and Planning Commission documentation from Realtors in several areas that currently have a center. Realtors in those areas made it very clear that the presence of a center has not negatively affected the property values in the area or the ability for people to sell their homes. All of Behavioral Systems Southwest centers, except one in Van Nuys, are located in residential neighborhoods with multiple-family and single-family dwellings, which is the same makeup as the location in south Sacramento. Our agency maintains all of our properties, demonstrating pride of ownership.

With the center, there will also be an increased presence of law enforcement as the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. probation officials will be visiting the facility regularly on official business. The center will be inspected by the Bureau of Prisons in announced and unannounced inspections.

We realize this project is controversial and we further realize that it is the unknown that adds to the concern. We want to partner with the community and engage in a positive relationship with neighbors, law enforcement, businesses and other entities that have a stake in south Sacramento.

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