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Humboldt County Officials: Program transitioning inmates back into society more successful than ever

HUMBOLDT COUNTY- County officials say inmates who are part of the AB 109 program are being better served in Humboldt County than ever before.

The AB 109 initiative has been in effect statewide for nearly two years, but officials with the department of Health and Human Services Mental Health say the addition of two case workers at the Community Corrections Resource Center to help inmates transition back into society successfully has proved beneficial to keeping people from re-offending.

Before the AB 109 program, officials say there was not an effective strategy in place to get inmates ready to be productive members of society.

"We recognized historically that there was a revolving door.  These folks would come back from jail and they would reoffend and they would get back to prison and we're trying to break that cycle," said Mark Lamers, the Supervising Clinician with the Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Community Corrections Resource Center.

But then the AB 109 initiative came into effect, and probation and mental health officials began working with non-violent, non-sexual offenders considered to be able to be supervised in the community without the risk of violent re-offending, to get them ready to fit back into society.  Inmates would serve the rest of their state prison sentences in their home county’s jail, where they would be informed of what they would need to do upon release.

"We take it for granted sometime that somebody who has been in prison for 10, 15, often 20 years or more can come out and manage to get housing, get benefits, get medical treatment, get their needs met.  And often they can't.  They don't have that kind of experience.  They don't have that background," Lamers said.

So two months ago, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services hired two mental health case managers to work with these inmates.  They establish the inmate’s needs while they are in jail, and then meet them when they are released to bring them to appointments and physically show them which services they need to use.

"If we can help somebody get their social security benefits started and that provides them with an income so they are able to stay in sober living, well then that person is off the street.  And it's something that then becomes self sustaining," said Lamers.

And officials say results have been successful.  But case managers are not there to do everything for the person when they are released.

“What they also really focus on is skills training.  We want our folks to be capable of becoming independent of our services and have a stable life in the community on our own,” Lamers said.

And hopefully not have to be incarcerated ever again.

Case managers also take people to health related appointments as far as Redding and Klamath.  About 300 people have come through the AB 109 program in Humboldt County since the program started, and more than 100 are in the program at any given time.