Staffers with the pilot Jail Discharge Program at the Santa Barbara County Jail help newly released inmates with necessities like transportation, phone chargers, or medical care. | Credit: Courtesy

Many prisoners leave jail with little idea of where to go and what to do. But as of October, a partnership between Santa Barbara County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness, Good Samaritan Shelter, and the Sheriff’s Office began a pilot Jail Discharge Program to connect the newly free with the resources they need. For people who are homeless or dealing with drug or alcohol issues, Good Sam operates the CREDO47 Stabilization Center, a 10-bed facility that provides medical support and stabilization.

The pilot program introduces new aspects to the county’s previous system of providing resources. One of them is the presence of a Good Sam team member outside the jail lobby every Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which Behavioral Wellness official Suzanne Grimmesey said is when prisoners are often discharged and a critical time for them. “The physical presence of someone who can help goes a long way in promptly connecting people to resources,” she said. “It certainly lowers the barriers of accessibility.”

As further insurance, a case officer meets with willing participants weeks before discharge to make arrangements and designate the resources they need. These resources can encompass both long-term treatment (e.g., for opioid addiction) and basic necessities, such as phone chargers, water, transportation, and personal protective equipment.

Planning for the pilot program began during meetings to discuss State COVID Emergency Supplemental Funding, which allowed for the additional staffing, funding for basic needs, and technology. Serena Cyr, who manages the CREDO47 program, is hopeful about the pilot program’s future. “As with any new program, we expect to be learning and making adjustments, but we are also excited to be able to connect people with resources and linking to services when interested.”

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