East Palo Alto's landmark prisoner reentry program received financial backing from the City Council on Tuesday night to stay open until the end of September.
Council members approved $20,460 through Sept. 30 to give the David Lewis Community Reentry Center and San Mateo County time to negotiate a potential contract for maintaining the program. The center helps formerly incarcerated persons reintegrate into the community by providing case management and referrals to medical care, drug and alcohol treatment, job training, college and housing support and classes for job skills, among other services.
Under the potential contract, the center would provide some reentry services for the county. The agreement would include exploring how East Palo Alto youth in the juvenile-justice system can achieve higher graduation rates through academic assessments, tutoring and mentoring.
East Palo Alto would continue to provide the facilities for the program and would share information about best practices with the county. If there is no contract with the county by the end of September, the program will be phased out.
In allocating the interim funding, the City Council threw out an proposed alternative that would have the city fund the program outright through an amendment to the recently adopted police department budget. In that scenario, the program would have received $171,573, enabling it to be fully operational with two full-time employees and one part-time; services would be offered five days per week.
The council also rejected an option to allocate $6,820 to wind up the reentry program in 30 days.
The David Lewis center has an 8 percent rate of probationers/parolees who return to crime compared to approximately 67 percent statewide, Program Director Robert Hoover told the Weekly last year.
Since its inception in 2011, the program has served 130 formerly incarcerated clients. It currently provides services to 76 adults and 30 juveniles, according to a city staff report. The East Palo Alto Police Department previously operated a pilot reentry program from 2007 through mid-2010 with state funds.
In 2011, the City Council authorized $198,000 in Measure C funds to reestablish the program after the state funding ended. That money was to serve as seed funding while the city sought alternative sources to sustain the program. Since then, finding sufficient funding has proved difficult.
City officials were hopeful for a grant from the state's Public Safety Realignment Act, AB109, since the act would result in increased numbers of probationers and parolees returning to East Palo Alto. But in June, the Department of Corrections informed the city it would not fund the reentry program, according to the staff report. In May, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors awarded the program $35,000 to keep it running through June 30.
East Palo Alto's program is run by just three people: Robert Hoover, who has worked with the city's youth since 1963; Delores Farrell, an administrative assistant who teaches anger management and decision-making classes; and Jose Cabrera, a former gang member who is now a case manager. The program was the brainchild of the late David Lewis, a longtime community activist and former prison inmate who was killed by a mentally ill former friend in 2010.