The Pasadena City Prosecutor’s Office presented a brief but powerful report on a $1 million federal grant to help combat recidivism, as officials note a high rate of re-offense in Los Angeles County, with a high concentration of offenders with violent criminal histories in Pasadena.
“We have 35 facilities in the state. All but three of them are operating at more than 100 percent capacity,” said Assistant City Prosecutor Michael Dowd.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will be distributed over three years, according to a staff report prepared on the issue for the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“These people just get branded as losers forever and no one wants to have anything to do with them forever. It doesn’t surprise me that we have a revolving door,” said Steve Madison.
The city has several programs in conjunction with the Flintridge Center aimed at preventing recidivism. The city’s police department is one of the few in the state with a reintegration program.
The city was notified of the grant on Nov. 2, Dowd said. The funds had yet to be distributed.
Over 65 percent of those released from California prisons return within three years, according to the staff report. About 73 percent of those re-offend within one year of release.
“The numbers are even worse for Los Angeles County,” the report states.
The Pasadena City Prosecutor’s Office was handling cases of more than 1,000 defendants with “violent criminal histories,” according to the report. With a city population of under 150,000, “This indicates that the city is disproportionately affected by defendants with violent criminal histories.”
Dowd pointed out that since the City Prosecutor’s office only handles misdemeanor cases, the true number of violent offenders is likely far higher.
Committee Chair John Kennedy praised the city’s program, but called for a bigger conversation on the issue.
“This is just more than a local conversation,” Kennedy said. “If we help young people acquire a trade or an AA degree, the higher level of education is a direct correlation to them not returning to the criminal justice system. As a state and a nation we need to tweek what we are doing when it comes to educating these young people.”
The information item required no action from the committee but was provided to keep the council’s Public Safety Committee up to date on the matter.
“I hope there are some tangible resources and businesses that are willing to take people in and give them a shot at an economic future,” said Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton.
Dowd said the program will be offered as an alternative to traditional prosecution for those arrested for misdemeanor crimes in Pasadena. Alleged felony offenses are prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“[It’s] basically a diversion-type program, where we’re trying to get people to stop offending or re-offending,” Dowd said, “…which means that if, in fact, they successfully complete the program … and they, in fact, don’t re-offend, then their case basically gets dismissed at the end of all of this process.”
Most participants will likely take part in the program for about a year, although some may complete it sooner, Dowd said. “And during that time, we’ll see whether people re-offend or not, whether they take advantage of the programs that are being offered.”
The city will be partnering with the Flintridge Center to help administer the program.
“When you consider the fact that California is right now the only state that has a recidivism rate above 50 percent, that’s a problem,” Dowd said. “And we have a criminal justice system right now that is focusing on rehabilitation. If we’re going to focus on rehabilitation and lowering recidivism rates, we need to make sure we have the funding for those programs.
The new anti-recidivism program will attempt to reduce those statistics by helping provide resources to convicts that will help reduce the likelihood of re-offending, Dowd said.
“We know that recidivism can be caused by a number of factors, such as lack of job training, lack of education, lack of a home, things of that nature,” he said. “The treatment programs that we’re talking about are trying to alleviate those factors so that the person does not repeat offend, does not go back to a life of crime.”
More information about the Flintridge Center can be found at flintridge.org.