Eleven New Graduates of the SFDA’s Back on Track Program

July 1, 2011

Erica Terry Derryck, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167
ADA Seth Steward, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1014

Eleven New Graduates of the SFDA’s Back on Track Program
A Model for Innovation in Cutting Recidivism, Rebuilding Communities & Redirecting Young Lives

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón conferred certificates of completion upon 11 Bay Area young people for successfully meeting the rigorous requirements of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s innovative criminal justice program, Back on Trackduring a moving ceremony on the evening of June 30, 2011.

Back on Track is a cost-effective program that meets District Attorney Gascón’s goal of reforming the criminal justice system by putting offenders on the path to productivity. The goal of the program is to improve public safety by helping young, low-level, non-violent drug offenders make a permanent exit from the criminal justice system.

“As it currently exists, our criminal justice system is socially and economically unsustainable,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Through innovative initiatives like Back on Track, we can provide young people a clear way out of the criminal justice system, making it possible to improve the lives of the participants and their families which, in turn protects the safety and resources of our communities.”

By leveraging the tools of the criminal justice system, the District Attorney’s Office is able to hold these young people accountable for their crimes, yet still provide them with an opportunity to embrace a host of life-changing opportunities.

Run in partnership with Goodwill Industries and the Family Services Agency, as well as other public, private and community-based service providers, Back on Track is for young adults — typically ages 18-24 — who are facing their first felony charge involving a low-level drug offense. To be eligible for the Back on Track program, defendants cannot have any significant history of violence, gun or gang involvement. They are trained for a job, go back to school, get current with child support payments, enroll in parenting classes, and become positive contributors in their communities. Through participation in the program, defendants prove they have an understanding of personal responsibility and community accountability.

“As the leading service provider for Back on Track, we offer the ex-offenders selected by the District Attorney's Office the opportunity to transform their lives by gaining life and workplace skills,” said Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, President & CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo & Marin Counties. “This way, they can become contributing members of society and avoid the revolving door of the criminal justice system, transforming their lives and the lives of their families.”

Averaging a 10 percent recidivism rate, compared to a 54 percent recidivism rate among drug offenders statewide, Back on Track offers a viable model for improving California’s criminal justice system and cutting crime. Back on Track costs about $5,000 annually per participant, compared to $35,000 to $50,000 for jail or prison. Back on Track demonstrates that preventing recidivism is both viable and an effective use of resources.

As part of the graduation ceremony, each participant spoke and received a certificate of graduation presented by Back on Track Program Director Ranon Ross followed by a ceremonial dismissal of all criminal charges by the Honorable Ronald Quidachay of the San Francisco Superior Court and SFDA Chief of Collaborative Courts Lenore Anderson. Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and a founding architect of the Back on Track Program, gave the keynote address. The program also included remarks from Deborah Alvarez- Rodriguez, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries and Ed McCrone, Director of the Adult Division of the Family Services Agency. Joanna Hernandez, a Goodwill Industries Back on Track Program Manager, presented the Innovative Criminal Justice Award to the Center for Young Women’s Development.