KCBS Cover Story: California Prison Officials Work On Rehabilitating Inmates

OAKLAND (KCBS) – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is looking to focus on the second part of its name, rehabilitating many of its 134,000 inmates.

The state has begun to reach out to community groups and non-profits for help in reducing the number of inmates who end up returning to prison.

At a public forum in Oakland this week, state prison leaders heard from groups that work with those behind bars and those out on parole.

KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

“We’re in the Bay Area looking for advice from people in the community who run organizations that provide things like literacy training, alcohol and drug abuse treatment and other kinds of rehabilitation programs,” said Bill Sessa with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “We’re looking for ideas from them.”

Sessa said five years ago under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the department was charged with increasing its rehabilitation and training programs. But then came the overcrowding crisis and state budget mess.

“Now we’re trying to rebound from that,” said Sessa.

Jacques Verduin, founder of the San Quentin Insight Prison Project, said he already has a plan that works, helping transform inmates into counselors.

“All these men are not just offenders. They’re fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins,” said Verduin. “If we help them and program them, it’s going to save money and lives.”

Over the last five years in California, 67 percent of all paroled state prison inmates returned behind bars within 18 months of their release.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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