Kern County officials are turning to community groups for help transitioning parolees back into the community.
It’s an effort to reduce the strain on county jails and law enforcement due to prison realignment, and lower repeat offender rates.
On Wednesday morning, the Community Corrections Partnership will award nearly a million dollars in grant funding to local community groups who submitted proposals about their plans to get parolees back on their feet.
With the county currently experiencing about a 30% recidivism rate among those released through prison realignment, probation officials say it’s only going to get worse.
"I think we're going to get to about a 50% recidivism rate,” said David Kuge, Kern County’s Chief Probation Officer.
"There's a lot of different services that we provide but we can't service everybody. We have a limited number of people we can service because of the cost,” Kuge said.
It’s become a vicious cycle for the county.
As more offenders are released early from jail, many quickly turn back to crime and are arrested again.
"They haven't dealt with their substance abuse problem, they don't have a job, they don't have skills to do a job, they don't have a place to live. Many times they're going to re-offend,” said Kern County’s Mental Health Director Dr. Jim Waterman.
But repeat offenders are just part of the problem.
According to county officials, Kern County gets less than $6,000 in state funding per offender, the lowest of any California county.
At the same time, nearly 5,000 parole violators have been sent to Kern County jails instead of state prisons, 2 ½ times what the state predicted.
"A county such as Marin, Contra Costa or Santa Clara gets three and four times as much money per offender as we do, sometimes as many as five or six times the money we get per offender,” said Allan Krauter, County Administrative Analyst.
But by enlisting the help of community groups who specialize in things like housing, employment and substance abuse to name a few, officials hope it’ll pay off in the long run.
"A mentally ill person to be in jail, you're paying about $100,000 a year as a taxpayer. Can we put them in a program and do something with housing and treatment and everything for $15,000 a year?" Dr. Waterman said.