California has one of the largest and most expensive prison systems in the nation and is currently under a federal court order to reduce its prison population. System and community leaders across the state have recognized the urgent need to lower the numbers of current prisoners and the rate of recidivism, in order to decrease state prison costs and increase public safety.
Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown helped California take a major step toward achieving these goals by signing AB 2060 (Supervised Population Workforce Training Grant Program) into law. Authored by Assemblymember Victor Manuel Pérez and co-sponsored by PolicyLink, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, and the California Workforce Association, AB 2060 will establish a new competitive workforce training grant program for women and men re-entering our communities and families after being released from prison, to ensure that they have access to training and education, job readiness skills, and job placement assistance. The bill was also identified as a priority by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.
Law enforcement officials and judges agree that opportunity-enhancing strategies are less expensive than incarceration and more effective at reducing recidivism and improving community safety and stability. Investing in workforce development opportunities for reentry populations is a critical step toward expanding access to well-paying jobs and careers, which in turn will improve offender outcomes and reduce recidivism rates, resulting in economic savings and improved public safety.
The program established by AB 2060 is designed to serve the distinct education and training needs of individuals who require basic education and training in order to obtain entry level jobs with opportunities for career advancement, and also individuals with some postsecondary education who can benefit from services that result in certifications and placement on a middle-skill career ladder.
Administered by the California Workforce Investment Board, the new grant program will build on the most promising workforce development strategies and incentivize counties to foster collaboration and coordination with Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIBs), the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, community-based organizations that serve re-entry populations, labor, and industry. Regional coordination also advances realignment goals, which shift some of the responsibility for housing prisoners from the state to the local level.
An allocation of $1 million from the Governor’s Recidivism Reduction Fund was secured to launch this effort through the budget process earlier this year. AB 2060 will leverage the State’s investment by rewarding counties that commit matching funds. This translates into additional dollars for the program and will help to sustain the strategy over time, ensuring that more women and men can be served.
We must work at the regional and state levels to ensure that every Californian has a fair chance to contribute and thrive. By investing in workforce training and job placement for the women and men re-entering our families and communities, we can improve neighborhood safety and stability and secure a more prosperous future.