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County of Santa Clara Office of Reentry Services Contracts with REDF to Help Develop Social Enterprises Employing Justice-Involved Clients

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—The County of Santa Clara Office of Reentry Services has contracted with REDF to work with community-based organizations on creating one or more social enterprises that will employ clients with criminal records.

REDF specializes in employment social enterprises, which are businesses that provide jobs, training, and support to people breaking through barriers to employment. REDF partners with these entrepreneurs by providing capital, capacity, and community support to increase their impact and success.

This contract is part of a pilot project comprised of three parts that will eventually also include a small business incubator and a research firm to evaluate the program. The incubator would work with reentry clients to develop and operate their own small business or social enterprise. Clients would have access to dedicated staff, a business development curriculum and additional support services like bookkeeping, marketing, legal assistance, business coaches and help with acquiring loans and grants.

The third component of the pilot project would be a contract with a research firm to evaluate the program and produce an implementation and outcomes study. The study would explore how the Office of Reentry Services can improve the initiative, as well the initial impact that these social enterprises and small business have on participants and people they employ.

“Many Reentry clients lack job skills and education,” said Mike Wasserman, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “And although many could certainly operate and own their own businesses, they lack money, training, and support. This program will provide the resources necessary for our Reentry clients to create livelihoods that will not only provide for their families, but for many families in Santa Clara County.”  

Of the 4,406 total clients who registered at one of the two Reentry Centers in San Jose and Gilroy between September of 2021 and September of 2022, 57 percent were unemployed and actively looking for work, and 27 percent did not have a high school diploma or GED.

“More than 30,000 individuals come in and out of our jail system in Santa Clara County annually. They need identification, medical care, general assistance, food stamps, substance abuse treatment, behavioral health services, employment and housing.  By providing our community members the opportunity to get a job and learn a trade after leaving jail benefits the whole community,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

“By bringing in an expert in the creation and expansion of employment social enterprises, we feel we can expedite our efforts to reduce unemployment among reentry clients,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D. “Individuals coming out of incarceration have sometimes never even had a job, or the education or training to acquire one. But given our experience with Reentry partners like Goodwill of Silicon Valley and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, we know that with the right resources and support, reentry clients are eager and incredibly capable of acquiring business and trade skills. Many have become exemplary role models for how far determination, hard work and utilization of support resources can take you.”

REDF has a proven track record for helping people with backgrounds and life circumstances who struggle with even getting that first job interview to become crucial contributors to our economy and society. In the last 25 years, REDF has invested in more than 238 of these enterprises in 33 states and the District of Columbia, helping 84,000 people secure jobs. And the revenue generated is reinvested in the business of helping more people get employed. Clients reentering society after incarceration need a kind of support that often the private sector is not capable of providing.

“We believe this investment the County is making with REDF will be a huge service to our community,” Smith said.     

Statistics show that people who have spent time in prison suffer considerable economic repercussions even after they have served their sentence. Their annual earnings are reduced by an average of 52 percent and those convicted of a felony, but not imprisoned, experience an average 22 percent reduction in annual earnings, according to a 2020 report by the Brennan Center for Justice. In aggregate, those touched by the criminal justice system, lose more than $372 billion annually and that loss is distributed disproportionately to Black and Latino communities, the report states. 

“People striving to overcome steep employment barriers, like homeless and histories of incarceration, which are often caused and compounded by structural racism, represent an enormous pool of untapped talent,” said Greg Ericksen, Director of Government Partnerships and Policy at REDF. “Employment social enterprises exist to reveal and reinforce that talent, providing good jobs, training, and supportive services that help people succeed in the workforce, and in life. This exciting partnership with the County will create employment opportunities for justice-impacted individuals to pursue meaningful work with career progression opportunities.”

“At the Reentry Resource Center, we provide clients with a multitude of resources helping them address medical, mental health and substance abuse issues, connecting them with housing, education, family reunification and record clearance resources and much more. But it’s devastating when clients make so much progress in these areas only to hit a wall when it comes to getting employers to hire them,” said Javier Aguirre, Director of the Office of Reentry Services.  

“We are very grateful to the County administration and the County Board of Supervisors for supporting this innovative project which we envision having not only a tremendous impact on the lives of our clients and their families, but on our community as a whole. As members of a community, we touch each other’s lives in ways we can’t always see. But when we support each other to heal and grow, we all rise together.”


The County of Santa Clara Reentry Resource Center (RRC) opened in San José in 2012 and expanded to a second location in Gilroy in 2015. The Centers strive to build safer communities by providing resources to formerly incarcerated individuals and helping them heal and reintegrate back into the community. The RRC collaborates with community-based entities and State and County Departments such as the Sheriff’s Office, Behavioral Health Services Department, Social Services Agency, Adult Probation, Office of the Public Defender, Valley Homeless Healthcare Program, Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Reentry Services, Pretrial Services, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and faith-based community partners. Representatives of these organizations and departments reside in one building and work collaboratively to provide resources and services to clients. Those services include referrals for mental health and substance use treatment, public benefit enrollment, counseling, health care, education, record expungement services, employment referrals, and housing and shelter information.


The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California, making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.

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Media Contacts: María Leticia Gómez, Office of Communications and Public Affairs,
(408) 299-5119, [email protected]; Lynn Madden, Office of Reentry Services, (408) 535-4277


Posted: October 18, 2022