Ken Carlson

Stanislaus County government hopes to change lives with massive construction of rehab and jail facilities

Andrea Conklin gets a hug from Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa during the public dedication for the Day Reporting Center at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Hacket Road in Ceres on Thursday.
Andrea Conklin gets a hug from Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa during the public dedication for the Day Reporting Center at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Hacket Road in Ceres on Thursday.

Andrea Conklin’s story of going from drug addiction to recovery set the tone for Thursday’s dedication of a Day Reporting Center for Stanislaus County, which is part of the new era of public safety realignment.

Conklin, 39, was in the first group of people released from state prisons in November 2011 under the statewide initiative that makes lower-level offenders the responsibility of counties.

Conklin, who started taking drugs at 19, was not able to keep a job with a title company. As her life went into a tailspin, she lived under bridges and committed crimes to obtain drugs such as crack cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, she said.

An arrest led her to give up custody of her 18-month-old son, and she was offered drug treatment in exchange for jail time. After more problems, Conklin was sent to prison in Chowchilla, where she served seven months of an 18-month sentence, and had a hard time staying sober after her release on probation, she said.

She told a probation officer she was not ready to live without supervision and asked for additional treatment. She was challenged to stay clean for the few days until the program began and then took buses to the recovery program at the probation center, then in Salida. Conklin said the cognitive behavior training taught her mind to think differently.

Today, she has joint custody of her son and is working for a business. “I just bought a car without a co-signer and the tags are not stolen,” Conklin told the audience at Thursday’s dedication. She was given a standing ovation.

She said her motivation for recovery was, “I just wanted to do it for myself. I had not seen my son for five years.”

The probation center in Salida was moved to the former city administration building in downtown Modesto, and now has a permanent home near the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road in west Ceres.

Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva said the Day Reporting Center not only has more space, but the right kind of space for changing lives.

People released after serving time in prison or county jail will make a first stop at the center. Staff members will assess them for services they will need to meet terms of their probation and turn their lives around.

The center has offices for medical exams, mental health evaluations and for dispensing medication. It has work stations for staff members from the Probation Department and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. Silva told The Bee last year that 17 percent of people served by the Probation Department have a serious mental illness.

The center has classrooms for former inmates who need help with addiction, anger management, domestic violence problems, or finding a place in the workforce. The classrooms are a vast improvement with their audio-video equipment, Silva said.

The county is expanding and modernizing its jail facilities on Hackett Road with different levels of security for inmates who want to reform and those who don’t. The next planned addition is a re-entry facility with 288 transitional jail beds and program facilities for inmates who want to change. Next to that footprint is the medium-security Public Safety Center.

A 480-bed maximum-security expansion with a medical and mental health wing also is taking shape. The county was awarded $120 million in state funding for building county jail facilities for realignment and rehabilitating offenders.

According to speakers at Thursday’s dedication, the county’s building campaign in recent years defies the old claim that government works slowly and does not care. Besides the jail and probation facilities, the county completed a Juvenile Commitment Center in 2013 and will open a new coroner’s office in the fall.

“I am proud of what we are doing,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Terry Withrow said. “We are not building more facilities to put more people (behind bars.) We are trying to figure out a way to rehabilitate them.”

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321