SB 708 Fact Sheet

THIS BILL

More and more California is working to shut the revolving prison door by strengthening re-entry support to inmates before they are released from state prison. SB 708 adds another tool to achieving that goal by enrolling eligible inmates into CalFresh, employment and other assistance prior to release.

ISSUE

California’s state prisons and county jails currently have the responsibility to prepare people for being released back into society. Pre-enrolling individuals into social assistance programs assists this goal but California does not yet have full authority that would enable corrections officials to do so. Federal law allows for pre-enrollment into CalFresh and SSI, but only when appropriate permission is secured from the federal administering agencies. Federal law also allows state prisons to assist people who are incarcerated to secure a copy of their Social Security card. To date, California has not yet sought this permission, making California one of only 11 states that does not have an MOU with the SSA. State law is currently silent on this topic. AB 720 (Skinner, 2013) gave county jails the option to pre-enroll individuals into Medi-Cal. AB 2308 (Stone, 2014) made California’s CAL-ID program mandatory for all individuals in state prison. SB 708 would provide jails and prisons the authority to assist those being released acquire their Social Security card or apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Access to critical services prior to release will assist individuals successfully re-enter society and decrease the workload on county staff who administer safety net services.

CURRENT LAW

In response to a US Supreme Court order to address prison overcrowding, Governor Brown worked with the State Legislature, local governments, law enforcement and probation leaders, to realign the supervision of people with non-violent offences to local law enforcement. Public Safety realignment was codified by AB 109 in 2011, and subsequently amended by legislation in 2012. AB 109 created Local Corrections Community Partnerships tasked with planning and implementing policies to reduce recidivism and promote public safety. In addition to law enforcement leadership, County Human Services Agencies are mandatory participants in local councils, as work supports, homelessness prevention, employment & training, and other human services are essential to achieving cost-effective solutions to California’s high recidivism rates. Several laws since AB 109 have been passed to address the need for both state prisons and county jails to link individuals to key services prior to release. In 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 720 (Skinner), which gave county jails the option to pre-enroll individuals into MediCal. In 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 2308 (Stone), which made California’s Cal-ID program mandatory for all individuals in state prison. It authorized the DMV and CDCR to create a MOU so that the CDCR could provide all eligible individuals with a state-issued ID card prior to their release. Federal law allows for pre-enrollment into CalFresh and SSI, but only when appropriate permission is secured from the federal administering agencies. Federal law also allows state prisons to assist.

THE SOLUTION

  • SB 708 seeks to reduce the risk of recidivism and contribute to successful re-entry by:Directing Department of Social Services to seek authority from U.S. Department of Agriculture to pre-enroll eligible inmates into CalFresh prior to release.
  • Allowing California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to enter into a MOU with Social Security Administration so individuals can apply for a replacement Social Security card and Supplemental Security Income while awaiting release

BACKGROUND

A report by the Reentry Policy Council of the Council of State Governments credits public benefits and job training as key contributors to successful prisoner reentry and recommends that states opt out of bans against people with prior drug-related felony convictions. The Reentry Policy Council is a bipartisan working group with representatives of national associations of probation and parole, correctional administrators, courts, police, mental health and housing experts, among others. Harvard’s Bruce Western said that the costs to pre-enrolling access to benefits like CalWORKs and CalFresh, “..are offset by increased employment and reduced crime and correctional costs for program participants…Achieving these objectives will yield a sustainable public safety that overcomes the long-term negative consequences of criminal punishment and promotes the economic improvement of poor communities.” Thousands of Californians are released from prison or jail every year on parole or probation. Unfortunately, with few or no job prospects, approximately two-thirds of those released from prison will be rearrested – and almost one-half will be re-incarcerated—within three years of their release. The vast majority (80%) of incarcerated individuals are low-income, thus being eligible for programs such as MediCal and CalFresh.

Pre-enrollment ensures individuals have immediate access to benefits that are essential for their basic needs. It also gives county Human Service Agencies more time to process applications in advance. It allows state prisons and county jails to acquire key documents, such as a social security card or government-issued I.D. that individuals need in order to apply for jobs or acquire housing. Finally, having CalFresh applications approved prior to release means these individuals can also immediately participate in its job training program. Providing pre-enrollment access to these types of benefits to individuals being released will not only improve outcomes of a very vulnerable population, but also improve public safety by increasing their chances of employment and financial stability and reducing their risks of reoffending.

SUPPORT

  • County Welfare Directors Association (Co-Sponsor)
  • Ella Baker Center (Co-Sponsor)
  • L.A. Regional Reentry Partnership (Co-Sponsor)
  • Root & Rebound (Co-Sponsor)
  • Western Center on Law and Poverty (Co-Sponsor)
  • Californians United for a Responsible Budget

CONTACT

Priscilla Quiroz Office of Senator Nancy Skinner (916) 651-4009|Priscilla.Quiroz@sen.ca.gov Jessica Bartholow Western Center on Law and Poverty (916) 442-0753|jbartholow@wclp.org

 

Thousands of Californians are released from prison or jail every year on parole or probation. Unfortunately, with few or no job prospects, approximately two-thirds of those released from prison will be rearrested – and almost one-half will be re-incarcerated—within three years of their release.

Providing pre-enrollment access to these types of benefits to individuals being released will not only improve outcomes of a very vulnerable population, but also improve public safety by increasing their chances of employment and financial stability and reducing their risks of reoffending.