By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
New county program to aid formerly incarcerated
• Firm to help with re-entry
Legacy Alliance Outreach pic
Legacy Alliance Outreach already offers a transitional program for those who are impacted by the criminal justice system, educational system, poverty, homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, gang membership, racism, social injustice, and others in need. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Stanislaus Board of Supervisors has unanimously agreed to allocate about $1.6 million to enter into a 15-month agreement with Legacy Alliance Outreach of Modesto to provide re-entry and rehabilitation services to those who were formerly incarcerated.

In June of last year, supervisors authorized funding to establish a pilot program — modeled after Homeboy Industries of Los Angeles — for servicing formerly incarcerated individuals.

Homeboy Industries — founded by Rev. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in the Boyle Heights section of L.A. — offers training and support to formerly gang-involved and formerly incarcerated people.

“A group of system leaders and groups of people with lived experience gathered over nine months and spent time talking and researching in order to figure out what the program would look like,” said Stanislaus County Public Defender Jennifer Jennison. “People were thinking that it could be modeled after Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. They knew it would be different in Stanislaus County, but everybody knew that Homeboy was a successful model.”

Three agencies — Turlock Gospel Mission, LearningQuest of Modesto, and Legacy Alliance Outreach — submitted proposals, with LAO accumulated the highest score.

“This is one of those days when we get to feel good about what we’re doing,” said District 3 Supervisor Terry Withrow.

Similar to Homeboy Industries, LAO is a non-profit organization that has served incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals for the past three years, providing services to more than 100 people daily, with more than 80 percent of its staff and volunteers having personal experience with the criminal justice system.

Michael Baldwin, the founder and CEO of Legacy Alliance Outreach who spent nearly 27 years behind bars, believes those who are “closest to the pain are closest to the solution,” and thinks the partnership between the county and his organization can drastically cut the rate of recidivism among former inmates.

“This isn’t a ‘me’ thing. This is a community thing,” said Baldwin. “I would bet my life and I would bet my freedom that in three to five years, people in the rest of the world are going to look at Stanislaus County and ask, ‘How are you guys doing that?’”

Jennison tends to agree.

“I think he’s right,” said Jennison. “Michael Baldwin just connects with people, which is why he is so unique. And the work he does is unique. All of the system leaders — the police chief, the sheriff, the district attorney — everyone is in support of this rehabilitation program.”

Over the course of the next 15 months, LAO is set to provide case-coordination services, employment support services, continuing education, system navigation, and peer support.

A handful of people who work for LAO or have been assisted by the organization rose to speak during public comments, with one common message: this program works.

“I will say that outcomes are important,” said District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who represents Hughson. “Everything we do in the CCP — the Community Corrections Partnership — is outcome-based.  I’m very supportive of this because we get great bang for our buck, but future votes will be based on outcomes.”