Skip to main content

Breaking the Cycle: The County of Santa Clara Provides Services to Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – People reentering a life after incarceration often struggle with unemployment, homelessness, food insecurity, basic items such as clothing and supplies for proper hygiene, and, in some cases, support for sober living. To address these challenges and to break the cycle of incarceration, the County of Santa Clara has the Office of Diversion and Reentry Services (ODRS), where people can receive essential services to successfully transition back into the community after being released from jail or prison.

The Office handles immediate needs such as healthcare, nutrition, and public assistance. It also offers opportunities for job training, employment support, legal help, education, mental health assistance, and more. These services not only help clients meet their basic needs, but ultimately help them regain a sense of self-worth and belonging. Since the Office opened in 2012, there have been over 20,000 clients who have received services and 100,000 visits overall.

One of those clients was Neil Chand, who was released in 2020 after serving 14 years in prison.

“I had a few hundred dollars, the clothes on my back. I had no food, no hygiene,” he said.

Neil’s parole officer pointed him in the direction of the Reentry Center, where he was able to get support and attend peer mentor classes for professional and interpersonal development. The Office offered him “all the basic necessities someone needs to survive,” he said.

Today, Neil is a substance use clinician for Caminar Family and Children Services of Silicon Valley.

Cecelia Carrillo was also once incarcerated in Santa Clara County. She overcame the challenges of leaving custody and now works as a full-time executive assistant for ODRS. The resources offered at the office, she said, are those she never would have imagined being available when she was released many years go.

Originally hired as a front desk attendant, Cecelia knows firsthand how important it is to provide resources to clients coming in, and also greet them with a smile so they felt welcome and safe during a vulnerable time in their lives. Cecelia connects with clients through her personal experience of having been incarcerated herself and is a testament to how they, too, can lead healthy and productive lives.

“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,” she said.

Rebecca Cardenaz, a program manager with Reentry Services, described the office as a “compass.”

“We are giving direction for those coming out of incarceration and giving them direction in life,” she said. “Once they’re here, they get a warm welcome from us and that peer support. That’s what keeps people motivated to keep coming back to us and getting the help and resources they need.”

Learn more about Reentry Services here.