In August 2006, a collaboration of African American clergy, community-based organizations and state and county representatives joined together to form a Public Health Reentry Task Force to address the health care needs of San Diego County’s rapidly growing population of formerly incarcerated persons. The group set out to examine the implications of Public Health Reentry in San Diego County, and to develop a set of policy recommendations that would result in increased access to medical services for formerly incarcerated persons and their families. Regional Congregations and Neighborhood Organizations (RCNO) Training Center reinforced this effort by providing strategic planning, leadership development, meeting facilitation and capacity building technical assistance services.
Since 2004, RCNO Training Center has been engaged in a statewide Public Health Reentry (PHR) Policy Initiative across the five California counties receiving the majority of the individuals being released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Led by organized groups of community minded pastors with churches in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Alameda counties, the PHR Policy Initiative focuses on identifying the connection between the health status of recently released offenders and its link to, and impact on, the health of Californians. RCNO launched the initiative after research and analysis conducted nationally, statewide, and in local communities revealed both the potentially devastating impact of a public health crisis in these communities, and the potential negative fiscal impact that disease, whether isolated or widespread, can have on local institutions.
This report focuses on the organizing efforts of RCNO in the San Diego area, in particular the challenges and successes of organizing the faith community to address the public health reentry problem, and to create a ready base of faith community leaders to participate in the public life of their communities.
Richard Flory is the executive director of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.