After his last of 11 prison stints, Edward “Stretch” Furtado had no plan. But, as he explained during a graduation ceremony last Thursday, “The DRC [Day Reporting Center] was right there behind me like a father behind a backstop encouraging a kid to stay focused.” An impressively vivid simile without any context, his statement is even more surprising considering that he never experienced the sort of parental attention he describes. His own father was a Hell’s Angel, and as a child, he spent time in 27 different foster homes.
Bipolar, Furtado was released from prison in 2011 after serving time for fighting with a security guard at the Chumash Casino. He enrolled in the Day Reporting Center reentry program back then but had to drop out when he became suicidal. The purpose of the DRC, founded in 2008, is to reduce recidivism and provide resources for parolees to be successful when they reintegrate into society. At this year’s graduation, Rick Roney — the volunteer extraordinaire who helped bring DRCs to Santa Barbara and Santa Maria — said, “Change is not easy, change is very difficult. … There are very few people who change significantly on their own.”
Services provided by the DRC include counseling, addiction treatment, and job training. According to director Katie Ward, 78 percent of the DRC’s clients this year found employment. Client Jesus Molina won the community service award for contributing 676 volunteer hours to multiple agencies. Latif Evans won the Client of the Year award for making the most dramatic life changes, and James Carey won the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ten beneficiaries of AB109, the state’s prisoner-reduction program, were also acknowledged at the ceremony. Supervised by probation, they receive some services from Community Solutions, Inc., the nonprofit that runs the DRC. The state prison realignment bill aimed at reducing overcrowding will increase demand for reentry services. Said Ward, “As a program provider, we do believe that folks are much better served with reentry services and improved skill sets and support rather than returning to prison.” Roney hopes to create the equivalent of a DRC on the county level for “AB109ers” and those on probation. He will present a fundraising plan to the county supervisors next Tuesday.