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CA Uses Jail Inmate Welfare Funds for Reentry; Expands Early Release for Permanently Disabled CDCR Prisoners

In September 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill (SB) 718 into law, which amends penal code § 4025 to permit the use of Inmate Welfare Funds (IWF) collected in eight California counties to be used to assist prisoners in their reentry process once they are released from jail.

Set up as a pilot program in Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus counties, the new law permits sheriffs to draw from the 10 percent IWF levy imposed on commissary sales in the jails, for the purpose of assisting prisoners within the first 14 days of their release. Such assistance includes (but is not limited to) work placement, counseling, obtaining proper identification, education and housing.

Los Angeles county sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore said that Sheriff Leroy Baca believed this was good legislation because it provides important resources to people coming out of jail. It will assist released prisoners who otherwise fail to stay out due to a lack of the most basic necessities, and thus will help reduce recidivism and overcrowding.

SB 718 was passed the same day another bill, SB 959, was enacted to help alleviate jail overcrowding. SB 959 provides for low-level offenders to be placed on home detention with electronic ankle bracelets. A separate bill, AB 1539, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on October 14, 2007, provides for expanding the scope of early releases given to terminally ill prisoners.

Sources: Burbank Leader, S.B. 718, A.B. 1539

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