LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today visited Pitchess Detention Facility to launch “Back on Track LA,” an innovative recidivism reduction partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), Los Angeles County Probation Department, Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department, local community colleges, a local charter school and private foundations. The comprehensive anti-recidivism initiative will work to hold offenders accountable, while preparing them to re-enter society as contributing and law-abiding members of their communities.
The Attorney General was joined at Pitchess by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers and representatives from the Ford Foundation and the local community college district.
“Reducing recidivism is key to a smart-on-crime approach to criminal justice,” Attorney General Harris said. “Instead of only reacting to crime, we must also focus on prevention to shut the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Back on Track LA will hold offenders accountable to their communities, their families and themselves. This initiative will give participants the skills to become contributing and law-abiding members of society, which enhances public safety.”
“We have too many people in jails who can and should be contributing members of our community. Under the Back On Track program, inmates will receive instruction, mentorship system, and a supportive structure — both in and out of custody — which will facilitate their return to our community and give them a better shot of not returning to our care,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “This unique program offers hope to those who too often cycle in and out of our jails and will serve as a model for national thinking around these important issues.”
Back on Track LA is composed of 90 participants— all male “triple nons”: non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders— and is housed in LA County. The initiative was designed to provide the participants with the critical services needed for a seamless transition from in-custody to out-of-custody life, targeting the time offenders are most likely to recidivate.
The in-custody program consists of four training tracks that include cognitive behavior training, education (academic and career-technical), life skills and re-entry training. The in-custody program will also provide additional child support services, family services, identification, health services, and tattoo removal.
Five Keys Charter School will facilitate the cognitive behavior instruction for the program and offer remedial courses for participants who do not have a high school diploma. College of the Canyons and LA Mission College will offer college courses to those participants that have already obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent. The credits obtained while in custody can be transferred to any California community college. LA Trade Technical College and College of the Canyons will also offer skill building and individual certification courses in welding, construction and maintenance.
The out-of-custody program comprises three main components: employment, housing and continuing education opportunities. As part of the program, an Employment Advisory Board has been created to assist inmates with job placement post-release. LA County Probation Department has partnered with LASD to provide transitional housing for participants for up to 120 days. Program participants who are unable to complete their high school studies while in-custody will have the opportunity to complete their studies at a Five Keys out-of-custody location in Los Angeles County. Those participants earning college credits who wish to continue their post-secondary education out-of-custody can transfer those credits to any California community college. The LA County Probation Department will also provide out-of-custody coaches that will continue to monitor and assist participants for 12 months after their release.
In October 2014, Back on Track LA received a $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Second Chance Act to assist with funding the pilot program. Back on Track LA was one of only four awardees in the country of the Second Chance Act grant. Additional funding for Back on Track LA was provided by the Ford Foundation, California Wellness Foundation and Rosenberg Foundation.
In November 2013, Attorney General Harris created the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, an office designed to curb recidivism in the state by partnering with counties and District Attorneys on best practices and policy initiatives. The new division is developing a statewide definition of recidivism, identifying grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs, and using technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.
In 2005, then-San Francisco District Attorney Harris created a reentry initiative called Back on Track, which aimed to reduce recidivism among certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Over a two-year period, the program reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent. Back on Track was designated as a model for law enforcement by the U.S. Department of Justice.