Alameda County approves program to increase job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people

On Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Alameda County re-entry hiring program, designed to allot 1,400 county jobs for formerly incarcerated people.

A crowd of approximately 40 people gathered outside the Alameda County Administration Building to rally in support of the program, holding up signs pleading the board to “Help reform our broken prison system” and “Build strong communities.” The rally’s participants included organizations such as Bay Area Black Worker Center, an organization devoted to serving the Black community, and Oakland Community Organizations, a coalition of congregations, schools and community groups representing more than 40,000 families.

According to Keith Carson, the Alameda County District 5 supervisor, letting formerly incarcerated people stay in prison will cost taxpayers more money than providing them with appropriate opportunities to be self-sufficient. He said approving the re-entry program would be a step toward giving formerly incarcerated people a second chance to turn their life around.

“A number of areas — New York, Los Angeles and Alameda County — are on the forefront of a movement,” Carson said, adding that this movement will help end the continual cycle of formerly incarcerated people returning to jail.

In 2014, California passed Proposition 47, which reclassifies certain felonies as misdemeanors and makes other judicial reforms aimed at allowing some incarcerated people to have the chance to more quickly participate in larger society. According to Sholonda Jackson-Jasper, a leader of Oakland Community Organizations, Proposition 47 was successful in reducing the number of people in prison.

“We are demanding that Alameda County provide 1,400 jobs,” Sholonda Jackson-Jasper said, citing the fact that Proposition 47 resulted in 1,400 “less people in jail” as the reason for the number being chosen for the program.

According to a letter from Carson and District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle detailing the program, the county already had a re-entry hiring program in place, which the new program will build upon with expanded services. These services range from job readiness training, transitional work programs and job retention services.

“This is a small step to end mass incarceration of our Black and Brown people,” said Keith Brown, a Bay Area Black Workers Center spokesperson, at the rally. “With this small step, we are moving forward to transform this society.”

Three months after the board approves the program, the Alameda County Human Resource Services will send a report back detailing available county jobs allotted for program participants, said Prince White, a campaign coordinator for Urban Peace Movement that seeks to help young adults improve upon their lives. White added that by Dec. 28, the available jobs will be ready for the participants to fill.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.