Under a clear sky and bright sun on Tuesday, formerly incarcerated individuals, community advocates, and leaders in local government celebrated the opening of the new Reentry Success Center in Richmond. The Center will provide support for people who have recently left a life behind bars.
“A place like this is going to help fill the voids in relationships people have with their parole officers…and I feel like this is something that should have been done a long time ago,” said Clarence Ford, before the crowd of nearly 100 supporters outside the Center. Ford, who has a felony on his record, knows firsthand the barriers many formerly incarcerated individuals experience during reentry.
At the time of his release, Ford received help from an engaged community member who helped him find housing and connect with public services. Now a student at UC Berkeley, he sees himself as proof of the impact that can be made by successful, engaged reentry programs.
“If everyone else was given the same chances, services, and resources that I was given, they could be successful too. That's why I'm glad the Center is finally here,” Ford said.
The Reentry Success Center is the culmination of years of planning, and is part of Contra Costa County’s overarching Reentry Strategic Plan. Clients at the Center will be able to connect with services to help them find housing, employment, and more. An estimated 300 formerly incarcerated individuals and their families are expected to benefit from these services annually.
“I think it says something about the community, about our government, and about our community-based organizations when we give as much respect to people who were incarcerated and reentering our community as we do it every other member of our society in our community,” said Chair of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors John Gioia.
Gioia, who praised Contra Costa County for adopting a Reentry Strategic Plan, praised the opening of the Center as a great accomplishment, but said there is much work ahead to restructure the state’s criminal justice system.
“We need to show that what happens in this center is more than just bricks and mortar; we need to show that this is indeed successful so that we advocate across the state to make sure that more money is set on the early side rather than just the enforcement side of criminal offenses,” said Gioia.
The Reentry Success Center, located in the historic Milens Jewelry Store building at Macdonald Avenue and Harbour Way, is a partnership between the County, local nonprofit Rubicon (whose mission is to provide services to very low-income individuals) and a steering committee of 12 individuals.
“This day has been years in the making,” said Rubicon CEO Jane Fishberg. “We're looking forward to seeing the Center create a supportive community that fosters positive relationships for the Center's members, the Center's partners, and the larger community. This is all about supporting the creation of positive relationships and bright futures for people returning to the community and their families. Let’s celebrate today.”
The celebration culminated in a ribbon cutting, which marked the official opening of the Center. Afterwards, inside the Center, attendees toured the new facility that has an open floor plan, contemporary design, and still smelled of fresh paint. The Reentry Success Center will begin accepting clients November 2.
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