Santa Barbara County is one of two agencies in California to receive a nearly $2.5 million Pathway Home Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement a re-entry program, providing 250 justice-involved individuals the services that will help them secure employment opportunities before their release from the jail system.

The Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board, the Sheriff’s Department, Allan Hancock College and Santa Barbara City College will partner together to implement a program that provides education and vocational training to incarcerated individuals, as well as an incentive for employers to hire previously incarcerated individuals, according to the sheriff’s department.

“This program is designed to take away some of the barriers to successful re-entry, including employment and housing,” Chief Deputy Vincent Wasilewski told Noozhawk. “This is a hand up and will require a lot of work on the part of the incarcerated individual, but it is an opportunity for them not to be defined by their worst day.”

It’s a 3½-year grant, with the first six months reserved as a planning period and an anticipated launch for services to inmates in January 2022, according to Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary, and ideally, everyone with interest and motivation will be able to participate, Zick told Noozhawk.

Allan Hancock College primarily will serve the yet-to-open Northern Branch Jail with education and vocational training programs, and Santa Barbara City College will assist the Main Jail in South County, Zick said.

Allan Hancock will begin providing educational and occupational training at the Northern Branch Jail beginning in late January, according to Dean of Affairs Rick Rantz.

“We plan to ease into the facility and gradually increase our programming as the jail ramps up and some of the issues moving into a new facility have been resolved,” Rantz told Noozhawk. “This will provide time for us to recruit, hire and train student support staff funded through the grant.”

All of the pre-release services and programming that the college will provide will be offered inside the jail, Rantz said, adding that the college is working to create guided pathways that lead directly to employment or opportunities to pursue further education and develop skills at the college during the post-release phase.

“An emphasis will be on providing recognized credentials within high-demand industries, and this should increase employability and allow participants to earn a living wage upon exit from the program,” Rantz said.

The college will teach workplace skills such as communication, decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving, personal skills such as integrity, emotional intelligence, professionalism and adaptability, technical skills such as computer and technology literacy, Google Suite, first aid/CPR and professional development, and career training such as career assessments and LinkedIn learning training, Rantz said.

Allan Hancock also will provide vocational training in automotive, machining, welding and business, among others, he added.

The pre-release services will acquaint students with programs and services within the detention setting and get them started on the right path, and post-release services will offer face-to-face orientations and workshops at the college’s Santa Maria campus to keep participants on that right path, Rantz said.

“Allan Hancock College has a long history of changing the odds for court-involved individuals. Our strong student support programs, coupled with our innovative academic and industry-driven programs, have enabled these students to reverse negative life decisions and become contributing members of society,” Rantz said. “When these students are equipped with a strong academic foundation and/or solid occupational skills, their ability to succeed is heightened. We are looking forward to expanding our academic and student support services to the new Santa Barbara County North Branch Jail.”

In addition to the education and career training programs that the grant will help provide, the Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board is looking to place 200 participants into paid work opportunities with local employers for at least 300 hours, according to Luis Servin, workforce program manager.

The grant will cover all wages and benefits for the participants who are hired, Servin said. 

To be eligible for that portion of the program, participants need to be at least 18 years old, have been convicted under federal, state or local law and are incarcerated, reside (at the time of enrollment in the project) in a state corrections facility or local county jail, have a release date between 20 and 180 days of enrollment in the program, legally eligible to work in the United States, and are scheduled to reside in Santa Barbara County upon release, according to Servin.

Employers looking to hire participants, at no cost to them, can email the Workforce Development Board at

The program is designed to address housing hurdles as one of the possible barriers to success that participants may encounter, Zick said. The sheriff’s department has partnered with Good Samaritan for the program to primarily assist with transitional housing, she added.

“Without a means to make a living and the financial security of a job, there is little chance of a successful reentry into the community for formerly incarcerated people. This Pathway Home Grant will allow us to provide … education and vocational training to people in county custody and will also provide incentive funding to employers who give justice-involved persons a second chance at employment when they are released from jail,” Sheriff Bill Brown said. “We look forward to many successful outcomes and stronger and safer communities as a result of this grant.”

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.