In 2012, the Northern California Service League (NCSL) merged with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). Founded in June 1948, NCSL’s mission was to create safer, healthier communities by helping the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated become responsible and contributing members of society. Throughout NCSL’s 64-year history, it provided services to individuals who were formerly incarcerated, unemployed, and homeless.
NCSL’s founder, the late California Supreme Court Justice Raymond Peters, was a distinguished judge and philanthropist. His many legal opinions throughout his career demonstrated a deep commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable, disenfranchised, and oppressed populations. Described by his colleague, Associate Justice Mathew Tobriner,
“His humanity reached to the defendant in the dock, the prisoner in the cell, the parolee guarding his fragile freedom… The list is endless.”
Recognizing that many of the essential components of ensuring public safety resided in successful re-entry from incarceration, NCSL developed a continuum of employment training and residential coordination for formerly incarcerated individuals in the Bay Area.
Targeting primarily male offenders with drug-addiction issues, NCSL provided in-jail services including substance abuse counseling, life skills classes, parenting groups, anger management training, and relapse prevention support. Prior to an inmate’s release, NCSL staff acted as a liaison between the inmate and their attorneys, families, employers, social services, and treatment providers.
In partnership with Goodwill Industries and Swords to Plowshares, the San Francisco Training Partnership (SFTP) and the Homeless Employment Collaborative (HEC) provide employment training and meaningful employment opportunities to homeless formerly incarcerated individuals upon release from the jails. Shirley Melnicoe, Executive Director of NCSL from 1986 to 2009, adapted a work readiness curriculum for San Francisco clients entitled Awakening New Futures, including a 40-hour life skills and job placement workshop. On May 2, 1996, NSCL sponsored the first Job Fair for Ex-Offenders in San Francisco, which turned into a 14-year annual event following its success. Hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals have been connected to employers with meaningful job opportunities through these fairs.
“The rewards of watching formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives by giving them hope and opportunities inspired NCSL staff to continue to create daily miracles with individuals that many in our society had feared and rejected — individuals who were able to turn their lives around and take responsibility for contributing to a better, safer community.”
~ Shirley Melnicoe, NCSL Executive Director 1986-2009
NCSL’s devotion to its mission also extended to families of justice-involved individuals. Together with the Women’s Lawyers Alliance, NCSL opened the Children’s Waiting Rooms in 1991 to provide a safe and positive environment for children whose parents have business before the courts. In 1997, NCSL established Cameo House to serve homeless formerly incarcerated mothers with children ages 0 to 6 years-old.
This inexhaustible commitment to motivating formerly incarcerated individuals to become contributing members of society established NCSL as one of the most respected providers of reentry services in the Bay Area. In 1998, then Senator John Burton awarded a Certificate of Recognition to NCSL for its outstanding achievements in the community.
In 1998, NCSL celebrated its 50th anniversary with a short documentary film about its history, entitled Awakening New Futures.
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The strategic restructuring with CJCJ was a necessary measure to ensure San Francisco did not lose critical services for formerly incarcerated individuals. Through this union, an even stronger organization was created and the 64-year work of NCSL continues on.
Mr. Chris Gauger originally joined NCSL’s Board of Directors in the early nineties:
“I was pleased to help the two organizations merge in the last few years: joining the thriving and cutting edge juvenile, parole, and advocacy services of CJCJ with NCSL's 64 years of re-entry services for adult offenders.”
CJCJ is honored to continue NCSL’s extraordinary legacy of providing professional community-based and residential services to criminal justice-involved individuals and their families.