“There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative – not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew”.
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – An indicator of a healthy community is how we treat people exiting the prison and jail system. The outdated belief of “locking them up and throwing away the key” has been proven to be counterproductive, unfair, and costly.
The County of Santa Clara Reentry Resource Center has created opportunities for over 20,000 residents a year reentering the community from jail or prison since it was created in 2012. Its mission is to decrease the number of individuals who are incarcerated, or under probation and parole supervision. The program uses evidence-based practices to implement a system of services, support and supervision; it also uses comprehensive efforts to address the needs and risks of former offenders to reduce recidivism.
A common barrier to success for people reentering society is economics. People often come out of jail or prison with no job prospects, no place to live, and only the clothes they were wearing the day they were arrested. Upon release, they are given their unwashed clothes back - clothes that have been sitting in a bag on a shelf for months, maybe years.
To help ease that burden, the Reentry Resource Center and its partners host an annual fundraiser to buy new clothes for individuals leaving incarceration. The Rise Up and Run 5K run/walk supports some of the most vulnerable members of our community. It promotes wellness and social change by helping clients obtain jobs and housing; it also helps them pursue an education, skills development, and personal goals.
“We are all deserving of the support of our community,” said Javier Aguirre, Director of the County of Santa Clara Reentry Services. “We are all deserving of second chances when we make mistakes. We are all deserving of dignity, opportunity, and hope.”
The Reentry Resource Center provides a safe place for people who were incarcerated to go, not only to get services, but, in some cases, a new career. Brian Evans spent years in and out of the correctional system, until he was hired by the Goodwill of Silicon Valley’s New Opportunity Work Program (NOW), which is funded by the Center. After graduating from NOW, Evans became an employee of the program and worked his way up to Lead Peer Mentor. His optimism, passion for helping people, and experiences with the criminal justice system help him relate to clients because he knows how it feels to be estranged from family, face substance use problems, and spend time incarcerated.
“I love it,” Evans says. “It’s giving back. I get to give back everything that was given to me. I’m living whole with a pay it forward mentality.”
The Office of Reentry Services will celebrate its 10th anniversary in February of 2022. During the past decade, the program has helped many people overcome barriers to success – and, in doing so, it has provided countless stories that help make Santa Clara County a healthy community where people from all walks of life can live and thrive. Go to reentry.sccgov.org/home to learn more about our awarded Reentry Resource Center.
By Matthew Rudig, Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Guiding Principles and Values
Reentry and reintegration begin while the individual is incarcerated
• Evidence-based practices are utilized when developing programs and policies.
• Collaboration, coordination, information, and communication are critical to the success and sustainability of the Reentry Network.
• Moderate to high-risk formerly incarcerated individuals are helped using validated assessment tools.
• Assessment and case management tools targeting continuous reentry planning are incorporated at the point of admission to the criminal justice system and continue to be used through pre-and post-release.
• The strategic plan is gender-responsive, trauma-informed, and culturally competent.