As local jails and prisons have become increasingly overcrowded, state and county law makers have been striving to develop more alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. One such program in California is San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s “work furlough and residential re-entry center” program. If you are being charged with a non-violent crime, or if you have already been convicted for one, a lawyer like Peter M. Liss can help you arrange for an incarceration alternative like this, so you can avoid going to jail or prison.
What is Work Furlough?
It is a program that allows some people convicted of non-violent crimes to serve out their jail sentences while still going to work. It is a great option for helping people keep their livelihoods during their period of incarceration, which can be really beneficial for those who are the family breadwinners.
While inmates are free to go to work every day, they must promptly return to the facility after work every evening. Though most inmates must use public transportation, some are even provided documentation to drive themselves to and from work. While they cannot attend social gatherings, participants can also attend off-site religious services, programs that are part of their sentence (such as counseling or anger management programs) and even school if they secure approval first. Visits from family and friends are permitted on the weekends.
It’s worth noting that inmates must cover the costs of their stay, which is currently $42 a day. Failure to keep up with payments or follow all rules can result in the inmate being returned to jail.
What is a Residential Re-Entry Center?
The Ocean View facility where the work furlough program is housed also offers a residential re-entry center. While many people would assume something of this name must be a drug rehab clinic, it is actually a very similar program to work furlough. The difference between the two programs is that while work furlough is for people who already have jobs to be able to keep their jobs, a residential re-entry center is a program for people to find new jobs and start earning money while still serving the time on their sentence.
Residents are given 90 days to secure full-time work or they will be returned to jail. Until they are employed, they must attend programming and job-searches offered at the facility.
Who Qualifies for Work Furlough?
Not everyone will qualify to participate in a work furlough program. Everyone who applies will be screened and approved or denied on an individual basis and a defense lawyer is required in order for felony offenders to apply. Screeners in the San Diego County Probation Department will look at the applicant’s criminal history, sentencing recommendations, employment history, abuse history with drug and alcohol, mental health, citizenship and whether or not they need to provide financial support for their family.
When it comes to criminal history, having any of the following on your record will generally exclude you from the program:
- more than one prior offense for a violent crime or a history of use of a weapon
- sale or transportation of large quantities of drugs
- sex offenses
- a crime that caused the loss of large quantities of money
Additional factors that may result in your rejection from a work furlough program in California include:
- history of serious mental illness
- having more than 120 days left on your sentence
- not being a US citizen
It’s worth adding that while those admitted into the residential re-entry center do not need to have an existing job, those entering a California work furlough program must be gainfully employed at least 35 hours a week. These places of employment must:
- allow on-site and telephone checks
- be in San Diego County
- pay more than minimum wage
- cannot allow the inmate to use of weapons
- cannot involve access to the personal information of other people
- cannot be directly related to the inmate’s criminal offense
- cannot require the employee to work over 72 hours a week
While self-employment is permitted in San Diego’s work furlough program, those participating must have a business license, 1099s, and an offsite office with a landline and bathroom.
A Note About the Coronavirus
Currently, the courts are more heavily relying on house arrest for alternatives to jail because work furlough has inmates housed in dormitory style close quarter settings, which can be a risk when it comes to covid-19. The San Diego County Sheriff supervises both work furlough and house arrest program, known as CPAC. Prior to the pandemic, repeat DUI offenders were sometimes required to spend part of their sentence in work furlough before being transferred to house arrest. For the time being, this stage of the process has been put on hold, but the Sheriff’s Department may resume this practice after the threat of outbreak is over.
If you have been accused of a non-violent crime, such as drunk driving or misdemeanor drug sales, and are interested in participating in a California work release or work furlough program, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.