Seven grants from the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) were recently awarded to Alameda, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties. In all, $9.5 million in Federal stimulus funds will be distributed to Parolee Reentry Court pilots to be coordinated by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. In doing so, California has committed itself to the largest court based prison reentry demonstration project in the nation’s history.
The Parole Reentry Court Program, will provide funding to each county for up to two and one half years All the awardees have well defined and implemented drug and/or mental health courts. Priority was given to jurisdictions serving large numbers of parolees and those with higher risks of recidivating. All pilot reentry courts will be expected to use risk/needs assessments in their implementation and adopt research tested evidence based practices throughout their programs.
For California, with its overwhelming prison overcrowding and reentry problems, this project marks a remarkable change from business as usual. For the first time, ex-prisoners will be under the jurisdiction of the California Courts. While a parole officer will initially will decide who is referred for the program, once a prisoner is accepted by the Reentry Court judge, that judge with assistance of the reentry court team ( including a parole officer) will have final say until termination from the program.