Budgets for Ex-Cons
May 26, 2009 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Budget advice for people just released from a California state prison.

More specific questions:

Do most people get paroled to half-way houses? If so, what would your expenses there be? Do you have a kitchen? Are meals provided?

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to survive until your first paycheck? Assuming you get a job immediately, I figure you still have 3 weeks til payday. Is this correct?

What amount should you budget in the SF Bay Area for food, assuming you're eating on the super cheap and that you do NOT have easy access to a kitchen? Clothes? Rent at the halfway house?

How do you find a place to live if you've been inside for 15 years? Craigslist seems to cater to the middle class computer literate. Are there other resources?

Does it make sense to apply for welfare in case you don't get a job immediately? If so, is there someone who can help you do this?

Here's what I do know (I think):

- You get $200 "gate money" when you leave, and a date you need to meet your parole officer if you're on parole.

- Many people have savings from working while inside, but it takes time and paperwork to access it.

- Your parole officer, if you have one, should be able to point you towards resources, but efficacy varies wildly between parole officers.

I would love information or resources on any of these topics, but budgeting is the part I need as soon as possible.

Thank you!
posted by small_ruminant to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is San Francisco County specific, but I would imagine alot of the information applies:

Reentry Council of the City & County of San Francisco Resource Guide.

Part four is about finances.
posted by gyusan at 12:29 PM on May 26, 2009

The first step, if you haven't done so already, would be to contact the California ReEntry Program. They can probably answer a lot of these questions for you, and in addition, sending these questions out through their listserv could be great for gathering firsthand responses.
posted by susanvance at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2009

State prison parole to the halfway house system, the counties use recovery houses for people who are being paroled but need drug treatment and monitoring. In PA the state picks up the tab for the halfway house for I believe the first six months and then if the parolee wants to stay on he pays out of pocket. For Philadelphia county, Forensic Intensive Recovery (FIR) is the parole and probation division that handles arranging housing and determining community treatment for people leaving the prison system and would arrange for you to be transported directly to a recovery house from prison by the Sheriff's Department. The FIR program picks up the tab for the housing for 90 days with an option to extend beyond that if permanent housing hasn't been obtained. If your friend just did 15 years, he's probably going to be on state parole, not county.

(I just double checked all this with the county parole officer who sits next to me -- I'm a social worker in the judicial system -- but things are usually way different at the state level than county.)

While at these facilities you are generally escorted to the welfare office where your applications for medical, stamps and cash would be completed. Since these facilities usually rely on food stamps to feed everyone, they're generally pretty quick about getting guys to the welfare office. They probably won't take all his stamps, though, just the majority, leaving him with a little money to buy some food just for himself. They'll know where the welfare office is and will probably get him there ASAP. Once he gets his cash benefits turned on he'll have a little pocket money while he looks for work, but the house may defray the cost to the state by taking the majority of his cash and putting it towards his rooming fees. Depending on the stipulations attached to his parole he may not even be allowed to look for work immediately, he may have to go through a blackout period where he has little to no contact with anyone outside the house.

From there, guys with no family to double up with usually go to rooming houses. They're usually the only option for people with no rental history, no credit and probably no money for a deposit. You'll find them on Craigslist, they're the places usually going for like $100 per week, no questions asked. They're usually in shitty neighborhoods, but, hey, they don't ask questions or run criminal checks.
posted by The Straightener at 12:42 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm afraid single room occupancy (SRO) hotels are a lot more expensive than that in San Francisco. It's been years since you could find a place for those kinds of rates. Both finding and affording housing will be the biggest problems that someone being released will face. California also has far, far fewer resources for the formerly incarcerated than PA, it sounds like.

The resource guide from the Re-entry Council is excellent. Try to get in to the Public Defender's re-entry social work program.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2009

Another good resource is the Northern California Service League. I would recommend just calling them to ask your questions.

I'm sending you San Francisco links because those are the ones that I know the best. Many of the resources are county-specific, although the costs should be similar across the Bay Area. Do you know to which county your friend will be paroled?

Anyone being released from the CA state prison system WILL be on parole, and will be on parole for three years (pending some parole reform through state budget cuts). You are absolutely correct that the efficacy of one's PO will vary.

Other resources:
Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice
All Of Us Or None
posted by gingerbeer at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2009

Response by poster: Good information. Thank you, everyone. gingerbeer, that Re-Entry Social Work Program has exactly the info I need, though I didn't know it until I read it.

I would still love to hear specific(-ish) dollar amounts for rooming houses, etc. if anyone knows them. (Rooming houses are places where you live with a lot of other guys for really cheap. They aren't nearly as expensive as SROs but you're really packed in there and in order not to be unbearable often have draconian rules.)
posted by small_ruminant at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2009

There are a number of prison ministries in the SF area that you might consider reaching out to - just let them know your predicament and see if they can help. The Catholic Archdiocese has one, here's another one I found via Google. If its something you're willing to consider, they may be able to provide you with additional support (cheap place to stay, help finding work, etc.) should you be in a tough spot.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:05 AM on May 27, 2009

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