R.I.D.E. program addresses concerns of community, set to provide taxi vouchers to inmates

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to support a new program providing inmates released from the Southwest Detention a ride to their destination. The one-year pilot program provides taxi vouchers to inmates released between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. if they are in need of transportation.

The voluntary program will ensure local residents their safety concerns are being addressed while keeping released inmates without feeling abandoned in an unfamiliar area of the county.

The pilot project, known as R.I.D.E. (Riverside Inmate Destination Endeavor) came about after residents near the jail expressed their concerns to Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone, said Verne Lauritzen, Stone’s chief of staff.

Lauritzen said the sheriff is required to release inmates when they are scheduled no matter what time of day or there becomes an issue of illegal detainment.

“Once an inmate has done his time or is up for release they have to be released. They have to release them right away and sometimes it is seven, eight, nine or even 10 o’clock at night,” explained Lauritzen. “What’s been happening is some of these folks have been released and they don’t have anywhere to go so they wander around the neighborhood.”

According to Lauritzen, a group of concerned citizens approached Stone after noticing inmates remaining in their neighborhoods following release from the detention center.

“It’s caused some serious consternation with many of the neighbors and the folks in the community down there that these guys are wandering around the neighborhood all hours of the night. They don’t feel safe,” said Lauritzen who noted some inmates had pandered for assistance. “We had a bunch of neighbors come to us. I think there was 300 of them who had signed a petition, to ask us to do something about these releases.”

Stone then sat down with the sheriff and those involved with the jail and the executive office at the county and came up with the pilot program, Lauritzen said.

“The Supervisor is very creative with this stuff and he came up with a pilot program that said ‘let’s provide a little bit of resource here and run a test program for a year,’” he said. “Let’s provide taxi vouchers to these people who don’t have resources and provide them a way to get to wherever they need to go, whether it’s out of town or to a friend’s house so they don’t just linger around the immediate neighborhood there. That all came to pass, we got a $25,000 allocation and we are going to institute that starting in June.”

Lauritzen said that the Board of Supervisors hope to get funding from the state for the program under the AB109 realignment program which moves inmates from state prisons to county jails.

“There has been funding, albeit way too little, in the AB109 realignment program,” said Lauritzen. “They have had some degree of funding and we were hoping we could take some funding from that. We would like to see some of that funding used as it certainly seems appropriate and we are going through the mechanisms. But to not cause delay in the implementing of the program, the county has provided $25,000 and we will see about getting reimbursed through the state.”

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