When the state reduced the state prison population by releasing non-violent felons back onto the streets in October 2011 — as well as shoving probation duties onto counties — local police and sheriffs’ departments were unprepared. Places like Stanislaus County didn’t have programs in place.
That’s changing thanks to a new $4.5 million Day Reporting Center dedicated Thursday morning at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Hackett Road in Ceres.
The purpose of the center is to turn those on probation and/or released from prison away from a life of crime and drugs and toward a productive future, said Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen.
“This is a place where they could check in and we’ll offer a lot of programs and services here for them and help them stay out of trouble,” said Risen.
"These one stop shops ... are a progressive way of thinking and sets Stanislaus County ahead in the state," said Stanislaus County Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva, who is also a member of the Hughson City Council.
Silva said there are approximately 7,000 adults under county probation. The center may not see all 7,000 but those coming new to probation will be checking in and be evaluated for the types of services they can use.
“I’m thinking we can circulate a couple of hundred people through here every month,” said Silva.
She said the center expands the services that were previously offered in Salida.
“We don’t just have more space, we have the right kind of space that’s conducive to learning and addressing the very issues faced by our clients that too often lead to poor choices and continued criminal activities,” said Silva.
The Center will be used by the Probation Department for check-ins, substance abuse counseling, life skills and job training. The center includes classrooms, a processing area, counseling rooms, public lobby and reception area, administration offices and a multipurpose room.
The addition of the DRC comes at a time when the county is expanding the jail at the Public Safety Center by 552 beds in two maximum security units, a health care unit, and support facilities costing $82.6 million.
County officials say the center is the result of a partnership between the state and Stanislaus County to build and innovative public safety facilities.
Altogether, the $113 million projects are being covered by $80 million funded through the state grant. The county is the first in the state to utilize AB 900 Phase II funds, also known as the Local Jail Construction Financing Program established by the State Public Works Board and the first to begin construction.
“I am damned proud of what we’re doing here in Stanislaus County,” said Supervisor Terry Withrow. “We were dealt a certain deck of cards here with AB 109 and rather than sit around and wallow about what we were going to do, it’s unbelievable what we’re doing in this county.
“We’re not just building facilities to put in people. We’re trying to figure out a way to rehabilitate them here and that’s what we’re supposed to do,” Withrow said. “That’s what this AB 109 was all about. They’re going to send us some bad guys, some prisoners, and we’re supposed to not just put them in jail but figure out a way to make them better, make their lives better.”
Sheriff Adam Christiansen said the facilities are being constructed because the county has worked with the state.
“We took a challenge called Realignment and we’ve taken a challenge called Prop. 47 and we’ve committed ourselves to breaking cycles of addiction and violence and to do a better job in providing opportunities specific to rehabilitative, educational and vocational opportunities,” said Christiansen.
Risen said county leaders realized that "there is no way you can really do the proper kind of training and programming and skill set training in the kind of jail environment that we have in our downtown jails where you just have rows of bars and no classrooms. And this ability to build a more modern facility is going to provide us with some opportunities to really look at what we can be doing to reduce recidivism and providing those who are in custody the opportunities to find their way out."
Risen said the new facility dovetails with the county’s new Focus on Prevention to breaking cycles of homelessness and recidivism and strengthening families.