In California, correctional agencies have been under tremendous pressure to change how we think and operate. With severe overcrowding, high recidivism rates and major budget shortfalls, change is inevitable. Solutions in the community, including day reporting services, offer a smart second chance for offenders.
On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council considers a permit to allow a day reporting center for federal probationers to open on Franklin Boulevard.
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I would add our experience in Napa County to provide context for the decision. A decade ago, we faced increased demand for use of our 264 jail beds, we had few options for managing offenders and we did not offer day reporting services. Napa County has a history of handling its correctional issues collaboratively, so a committee sought solutions that would protect public safety and we retained outside experts to help develop a master plan. We realized we needed to be more flexible and shift from housing inmates to providing more community services to support rehabilitation and reintegration.
As part of our final plan, we approved a community corrections service center, a hub for delivering day reporting services. This center opened nine years ago, and we are proud to say it has exceeded our expectations, serving as many as 100 probationers. We have added services for Spanish-speaking probationers and for domestic violence offenders. We have seen no increase in criminal activity near our center in downtown Napa.
Our program was unique; offenders could start while in custody and earn their way back to the community faster through the program. Since opening, we have hosted graduations for several hundred participants and their families. We come together to reinforce this positive achievement and to let graduates know we value their hard work to successfully remain in the community.
By addressing our challenges with evidence-based practices and programs, Napa County has saved taxpayers future costs, reduced jail bed needs and reduced recidivism. We retain jail beds for serious offenders, enhance public safety and provide a second chance for offenders.
Day reporting services are valuable. By providing services where individuals live and work, you reduce the burden for staying on track. Participants can get to their appointments, keep their jobs, and stay involved with their families – all critical for success. We all gain if they succeed, in lower costs and reduced crime.
Mary Butler is chief probation officer in Napa County. She can be contacted at email@example.com.