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Earlier this year, San Francisco’s Sheriff Mirkarimi teamed up with Adult Probation Chief Still to operate a unique reentry pod in Jail #2 that provides community connections and resources to people about to be released. Last week, I visited the reentry pod and gained a glimpse into its progress.

Opened in February 2013, the reentry pod was designed in response to AB 109 realignment, and serves up to 56 people at a time. San Francisco is one of just a few counties that is returning people who are incarcerated in state prison to county jail to serve the last 120 days of the sentence locally, before being released under PRCS or through an 1170(h) split sentence (see CDCR Factsheet on Realignment for definitions). This allows local law enforcement to better prepare these individuals for reentry into the Bay Area; individuals who would otherwise be released directly from state prison into probation supervision under Realignment.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and CASC Intake Specialist/​Administrative Assistant Christa Collins

Photo by Vimal Bhalodia | @VimalBhalodia

The reentry pod provides an intensive programming schedule that includes:

  • Cognitive behavioral programs
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Education
  • Parenting classes
  • Restorative justice programs
  • Case management
  • Linkages to community resources

Once released, these services continue to be available to participants at CASC, the Probation Department’s recently opened one-stop community corrections reentry center operated in partnership with Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc (LCA), as well as many other community partners including CJCJ, and located a block away from the Hall of Justice.

I visited the reentry pod as part of the Sheriff’s Department’s ongoing community engagement effort. Guest speakers discuss topics ranging from housing and employment resources, to personal success stories, to policy reform and advocacy. Through actively engaging members of the community with the men housed there, the Sheriff hopes to ease the transition back into society and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

The reentry pod follows a two-level circular layout. Stationed at the middle point, a deputy has a line of site into both dormitory levels. Classes and discussions occur in a couple of rooms on the ground level, or on the main floor. My colleague Joe Bluford, CJCJ’s Transitional Services Specialist, and George Duran the Sheriff’s Department reentry pod liaison accompanied me on my visit.

The reentry pod was clean and surprisingly tranquil. The men moved freely around the pod and classes were ongoing. My presentation was on the importance of community engagement in policy advocacy. I brought materials and information related to criminal justice policy reforms in San Francisco and urged them to get involved in the civic process.

San Francisco has long recognized that the voices of formerly incarcerated people are essential to understanding the impact and improving upon criminal justice policy. Yet, governmental and bureaucratic systems are often opaque and painfully inefficient, and very often the community voice becomes lost in the noise.

The reentry pod participants had many questions that centered on one theme: How do I get involved? Their interest in the subject was positive and encouraging. I provided details on the Reentry Council application process and on organizations like All of Us or None, which provides excellent support and guidance for enthusiastic advocates from all backgrounds.

My visit was only an hour long, but it introduced new resources and positive interactions to people who will soon be released into the San Francisco community. Creating those linkages could mean the difference between success and recidivism. Although still in its infancy, the reentry pod fills a critical gap in the continuum of supervision and resources for this population.

Thank you to the Sheriff’s Department staff and reentry pod participants for the opportunity.