There are an estimated five million formerly incarcerated individuals in the United States. And every year, tens of thousands of previously incarcerated individuals are released into society. A large percentage of Alameda County’s underserved demographic of men and women undergoing reentry comprise a segment of that population proudly served by Felton’s Social Justice Division. 

In 2020, these Justice Division programs grew by 50% due to the urgency to support the early release of individuals leaving incarceration as a way to reduce COVID19 transmission in crowded prisons. Felton works to provide services that reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Studies show that in 30 states, two-thirds of returning citizens are rearrested within three years, and three-quarters are arrested in five years, creating a high recidivism rate. Recently released, this group faces a myriad of challenges, including securing housing and employment, trying not to re-offend, and the stigma of being an ex-offender. These challenges can be exacerbated if the formerly incarcerated have mental health, substance abuse, or addiction issues that need to be addressed. Through comprehensive wrap-around services, Felton’s team of social workers and clinicians supports them on their journey.

Felton’s reentry programs are effective by adapting culturally competent and sensitive case management. The entire process kicks off when a person is still incarcerated, with the intent of supporting them before they fall through the cracks. Equally crucial is recognizing the importance of individualized services and collaboration. Felton’s reentry team consists of peer community specialists who have lived experience and understand the unique needs to best promote their success.

Success Moving from Incarceration (SMI) is a Felton reentry program. 

  • Serving individuals primarily coming out of Santa Rita jail, who are returning as residents across all of Alameda County and who are experiencing severe and persistent behavioral health challenges 
  • It is an 18-month program
  • Services include peer support, case management, linkage to services, clinical services, and medicine management.
  • Teams consist of Peer Support Specialists, Mental Health Professionals, and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. 

According to program data, over 80% of Felton’s Justice Division clients are African-American or Latino. Felton Board member Dr. Michelle Clark has more than two decades of experience working with the incarcerated populations living with mental health illness. She says, “What we all should know is that Black and Latin populations are overrepresented in the jail systems in California and around the country. And that has to do with our cultural prejudices in terms of increased policing, disproportionate sentencing, financial barriers to the availability of bail, and legal counsel. The misdiagnoses of African Americans are also a problem, going back to the lack of training in medical schools and psychiatry training programs. There’s the over-diagnosis of schizophrenia, which is an uncommon disorder. That leads to inappropriate medication for that disorder that tends to have unfortunate long-lasting side effects. Experiences like that turn people off necessarily and drive them away from services they could be receiving. Felton is ahead of the game in terms of having leadership and staff who are well-versed in cross-cultural issues and working with underserved populations.”

The formerly incarcerated should not be written off as a burden to society. With encouragement and guidance, they have the skills, determination, and the will to help them succeed in the community. Felton Institute is optimistic about the future of reentry services and is proud to fuel the growth of resources and services aimed at formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Felton Justice Services Infographic

For more information about Felton’s Justice Services Programs contact Division Director Curtis Penn at or (415) 474-7310 x777.


About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult, and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties. Felton’s social services and programs utilize the latest scientific research, combining cultural sensitivity, deep respect for client and staff, and a commitment to social justice.

Felton is the oldest non-sectarian and nonprofit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. For over a century, Felton Institute has been at the forefront of social service innovation, pioneering new approaches to meet underserved populations’ emerging needs. At the heart of our work is the belief that individuals and families in crisis must have access to services and resources to help them build on their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency.