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December 9, 2016

In July, SDWP received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to open a job center at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility, a women’s facility in Santee, CA. Building upon the success of its Reentry Works San Diego program at the East Mesa Reentry Facility (EMRF), the Las Colinas center is the result of a partnership between SDWP and the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments.

Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility

Opened in October, the center, managed by grant sub-recipient Second Chance, started enrolling participants, with the goal of offering trauma-informed reentry services to 400 women pre-release and to 100 of those 400 post-release.

Enrollment of voluntary participants is based on three criteria. The individual must:

  • be a resident of the facility
  • be within 180 days of release
  • have not been convicted of a sexual offense other than prostitution

The goal of Reentry Works is to increase job placements of individuals reentering the community by better integrating career services with the criminal justice system. Larger-picture goals include reducing recidivism, which in turn positively impacts public safety.

The job center can serve up to 25 inmates at a time and is equipped with a computer lab and classroom for presentations and workshops. The workshops for women are a bit longer than workshops for men, as studies have shown women like to collaborate and bond in small groups, which the additional time and smaller groups can better accommodate.

Once a career center participant has been released from Las Colinas, a post-release staff person works in tandem with the Sheriff Department’s counseling staff and probation officers, holding joint meetings to connect probationers to employment as part of their reentry plan.

Though the goals are similar for both men and women exiting prison, there are many unique challenges to serving incarcerated women. The number of women being incarcerated has grown at nearly twice the rate of men since 1985. As 80 percent of the female ex-offenders return home to care for children, the career center staff will not only focus on employment skills but also connecting program participants to childcare and other support services prior to release to help remove as many barriers to employment as possible.

Another unique challenge is a higher prevalence of abuse and trauma, with 77–98 percent of women reporting domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse. In two focus groups held with inmates, it was discovered that one of their primary concerns is making sure to not return to abusive relationships. To address this and offer trauma-informed services, the Sheriff’s Department has contracted with Dr. Stephanie Covington from the Center for Gender and Justice to provide all staff at Las Colinas training and resources to develop gender-responsive and trauma-informed reentry services.

In addition to the above, women offenders are more underemployed and unemployed than their male counterparts. Research has found that there are significantly higher reductions in recidivism for people who participated in vocational training programs in custody. The vocational programs available at Las Colinas are among the top 10 fast-growing occupations found by SDWP to likely hire previously incarcerated individuals, including landscape architects and culinary services.

“I want to be part of this moment,” says one participant who wished to remain anonymous. “I came to the job center to find a job and confidence.”

“We believe empowering and equipping women to reconnect with their children, families, and careers before release will have huge benefits post-release,” says SDWP VP and Chief Program Officer Andy Hall. “In partnership with the Sheriff and Probation departments and Second Chance, the job center does just that.”




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