The Treatment Industrial Complex 

As California transitions away from mass incarceration, a notorious private prison company has landed a multimillion-dollar state contract to provide inmate reentry services.

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She added that Taylor Street staffers take into consideration each participant's contract requirements and make an effort to work around their schedules.

Other former Taylor Street Center residents shared that promised services at the center — like access to a trained staff, functioning computers, and nutritious food — were below the standards they experienced in prison. "Some of the people they hired may not be up to the task. Seems like they're more concerned with their cellphones than actually running an efficient place," said Mark M. "There's no job assistance. They're supposed to have this computer lab; they don't. They got some old computers down in the basement, and you can't get down there."

According to Richards, the company fixed its issues with the computer lab last year.

Some Taylor Street Center participants also felt that their successful reentry was attributed to resources and people that they sought on their own, such as therapists and educational programs referred by other formerly incarcerated people. That's in direct contrast to CDCR's belief that mandatory reentry programs are the primary avenue to a successful transition back to the community.

"It's really hard to start over again," said Mark M. "All this has kind of made me realize what I'm actually capable of doing. I didn't really believe in myself too much when I got out, but you know, I'm making things happen, and it's going in the right direction."

In Richmond, at GEO's Contra Costa Day Reporting Center, Owens said "high-risk" participants require heightened supervision. "Someone is looking out for their best interest," she explained. "Without the program, they're not likely to be successful on their own."

A "high-risk" classification is determined by a reentry assessment conducted by the CDCR, explained Khokhobashvili, and it provides directions for the parolee's release plans.

She insisted that the CDCR strives to take a "case-by-case" approach to reentry. She said the department conducts risk assessment tests and works with the parolee's case manager. She also argued that a program can still be effective even if it's mandated. "At least you're there, at least you're exposed to the treatment and programs," she said.

The length of time that a parolee spends attending programming at the Contra Costa Day Reporting Center varies based on assessed need. According to the CDCR, most parolees that attend day reporting centers receive services for a full year.

The curriculum is rigorous and involves a large time commitment: After participants graduate from seven days of attendance a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., they transition to three days a week, based on "observed behavior." Owens said most participants are mandated by the state to attend.

But Isaacs of American Friends Service Committee contends that GEO keeps people in its program for too long. Best practices in the field, she said, are to keep people on the lowest level of supervision for the shortest amount of time. But those practices conflict with GEO's business model, Isaacs noted.

"The longer that you can keep people involved and required to do something — show up somewhere, take some kind of class, pee in a cup, whatever it is — then the more money they stand to make off of that," she said.



In a green building
, directly across the street from the GEO's day reporting center in Richmond, is Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that has served formerly incarcerated people for nearly 40 years. It's beloved by reentry activists and Contra Costa County officials alike, and the organization had no idea that GEO Reentry was going to be its new neighbor until its sign went up.

Although Rubicon Program's officials did not respond to requests for an interview for this report, one employee who asked to remain anonymous criticized the length of CDCR's required commitment at the GEO center. "At least give these guys a chance to go to work, or go to a different program like Rubicon, because we offer the same exact services that GEO does. They almost modeled our whole program," the person said.

Katcher of Root & Rebound said GEO's mandatory program is also overly supervised and degrading to participants. And advocates criticize GEO and the CDCR's approach to treating formerly incarnated people as needing to be trained how to think.

"These are human beings that we're talking about coming out of prison and jail. These aren't animals. They don't need to be trained or taught. They need to be treated like human beings and given the dignity they deserve," Katcher said.

Khokhobashvili of the CDCR defended the state and GEO's approach of seeking to change the "criminogenic behavior" of ex-inmates, saying the programs are tailored specifically to each participant.

At Root & Rebound, which Katcher founded, the reentry program takes a "human-centered" approach and has distributed over 40,000 reentry guides to people inside of prison to help give them agency and confidence to navigate resources and seek help as needed after they're released.

And Rubicon offers a two-week holistic program that helps participants identify their own workforce barriers and gives them tactical training. Afterward, participants receive coaching to create personal benchmark goals, such as improving their credit scores.

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