Sheriff's Department celebrates grand opening
of Women's Reentry Center
Sheriff Michael Hennessey presents Program Coordinator Karen Levine
with a certificate of recognition yesterday for their efforts
in launching the Sheriff's Department's Women's Reentry Center.
The center provides transitional support services
for ex-offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism rates.
September 28, 2007
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department celebrated the grand opening
of the Women's Reentry Center yesterday.
The program, which gets its funding from private fundraising
efforts as well as local, state and federal sources, provides
women ex-offenders with transitional support services including
housing assistance, substance abuse programs, employment referrals,
healthcare and legal assistance. The program also offers personal
development classes to help ex-offenders get their lives back
As many as 1,000 women per year are released from the San Francisco
County Jail, and an average of 55 percent will be rearrested within
the first twelve months of release.
"In California, there are ten to fifteen thousand women
in state prison, and a like number in county jails up and down
the state," said Sheriff Michael Hennessey who was instrumental
in getting the program up and running. "Every day we have
350 or so women in the San Francisco County Jail and, with rare
exception, they all come back into the communities and they all
have severe problems they have to face."
"We want them to be able to come here to take advantage
of the services that are going to be available," Hennessey
During opening speeches Program Administrator Sunny Schwartz
praised Hennessey's vision in recognizing the necessity for post-incarceration
"If it wasn't for this man we would not be standing here,
and we would not have a stitch of dignified effective programs,"
Schwartz said. "Because of his leadership, we are able to
begin to put the word 'justice' back into the justice system."
Program Administrator Sunny Schwartz
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who created the Clean Slate program
to help ex-offenders erase their criminal records, said: "I've
had the opportunity to work with the Sheriff and his staff, [sic]
who are dedicated to looking at reentry in a new and different
Public Defender Jeff Adachi
District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents an underserved
district comprised of predominantely low-income minorities, said,
"There's no other way for us to go than to make sure people
who have been incarcerated have a leg up," she said. "This
is where our priority should be and where the money should go."
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell
"If the justice system wants people to be accountable to
it, then we must be accountable to the people," said Program
Director Karen Levine. "If we want folks to follow the rules
- and hold themselves accountable for trespassing on other people
- then we better, for God's sake, provide every single opportunity
to make sure that women and children have every chance they can
"As women come out and try to be parents to their children,
let's support them in getting legal help. Let's support them in
getting housing. Let's support them in getting childcare and going
to City College, or going to Stanford, or going to Mills, and
putting their children in schools and raise them so they're never
going to see 850 Bryant, ever," Levine exclaimed.
Program Coordinator Karen Levine with reentry support services
Ex-offenders turned virtuoso poets Cortney, Allyse and Nina.
Keep up the good work, girls. We're proud of you.