Santa Clara County's Reentry Program Marks Decade of Aiding Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

Santa Clara County's Reentry Program Marks Decade of Aiding Formerly Incarcerated IndividualsSource: Google Street View
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on February 09, 2024

In Santa Clara County, a beacon of hope has emerged for those who've served their time. The Office of Diversion and Reentry Services (ODRS) offers a fresh start to formerly incarcerated individuals looking to reintegrate into society. Setting its sights on reducing recidivism by providing essential services to these individuals, the ODRS supports their transition from jail or prison back to community life.

Since its foundation in 2012, over 20,000 clients have walked through the doors of ODRS, seeking assistance in various forms; from immediate necessities like healthcare and food to long-term support such as job training and mental health services. These opportunities are more than mere offerings, they're lifelines for those who find the outside world unwelcoming after time spent on the inside. As reported by the County of Santa Clara, the Office has registered 100,000 visits overall, indicating a continuous demand for its services.

One success story is Neil Chand, who after serving 14 years, struggled with the basics upon release. "I had a few hundred dollars, the clothes on my back. I had no food, no hygiene," he told the County of Santa Clara. With guidance from his parole officer, Neil utilized the resources at the Reentry Center to rebuild his life, ultimately becoming a substance use clinician for Caminar Family and Children Services of Silicon Valley.

Cecelia Carrillo's journey mirrors Neil's. After her own stint in incarceration, Cecelia now serves as a full-time executive assistant for ODRS. Originally starting as a front desk attendant, she played a crucial role in ensuring that newly arrived clients were met with warmth and understanding. “When vendors and businesses come into our office, I try to get a business card so that I can ask if they have resources for our clients, or if they are open to hiring employees with criminal backgrounds,” Carrillo said, according to the County of Santa Clara. Her ascent within ODRS and her dedication to the organization's mission underscore the possibilities that arise when given a second chance.

Rebecca Cardenaz, a program manager at the Reentry Services, referred to the office as a “compass.” In a statement she made to the County of Santa Clara, she highlighted that, “We are giving direction for those coming out of incarceration and giving them direction in life,” also emphasizing the importance of the supportive environment provided by ODRS. It's this combination of resources and emotional backing that motivates clients to continue their path toward reintegration and personal growth.