The Reentry Success Center: Breaking Barriers to Break Poverty

By Jonathan Bash December 18, 2018

One in three Americans have interacted with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. This one touchpoint can be life-changing, introducing dozens of new barriers that can follow an individual throughout their life, making it a challenge to get a job, rent a home or raise a child.

These barriers not only hold them back, but their children and the community, perpetuating intergenerational poverty. That’s where the Reentry Success Center (RSC) – a collaboration between Rubicon Programs and community partners – comes in.
The RSC is there for those reentering society after incarceration, as well as their families during – and after – their loved one is in prison or jail. While at the Center, staff, volunteers, community members and fellow returning residents work together to help people transition into a good job, put a deposit on an apartment, and reconnect with their friends and family.

“I was released from jail three weeks ago after a ten month sentence at West County,” says Michelle, a new member of the Reentry Success Center. “The Center was talked about a lot while there. I heard so many success stories, so I came here two days after my release.”

Michelle says she knew she needed a support network to get back on her feet. The Center sounded like the perfect fit.

“In jail, we don’t have to talk to each other. You are isolated. You push people away. But you have to work together to move forward in the community,” she says. “We come out uninformed about our rights. We don’t have the direction or structure to do what we need to yet.”

At the Center, she found the structure she was looking for; she soon signed-up for classes that have helped her move forward, including a Life Skills course, a Cognitive Skills class, and Trauma and Grief Therapy sessions. These opportunities have helped her acclimate to the workforce and manage some of the challenges in her personal life.

“My 9-year-old son tells me that I need to communicate better, so for now, I’m focusing on that. I’m also working to collect some of the skills that I need to thrive in my career.”

Another priority is learning how to navigate the job search process with a criminal record. “It’s hard to find a great job or get a career started,” she says. “There are many obstacles. Some employers look at me like a criminal. They put me in a box.”

Luckily, changes to California’s employment laws have made it a bit easier for her to have a fair chance. A.B. 1008, “Ban the Box” legislation signed in 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown, became law after a coalition of formerly incarcerated advocates came together to push for change.

Now, employers are no longer allowed to ask about an applicant’s criminal background until a conditional offer of employment is made, allowing people to show who they really are without preconceived notions and prejudices clouding an employer’s judgement.

“This allows people to sell themselves,” says Lawrence, the Reentry Center’s Volunteer Mentor Coordinator. The law has already helped some employers see the light.  “Now, there are many so-called ‘felon-friendly’ employers out there.”

Getting a job can still be a challenge, but those challenges are often overcome with hard work and dedication. “People have no job history and no references, so we try to take the skills they’ve learned on the street and apply them to today’s job market.”

Lawrence recruits and manages volunteers and mentors who help Center members build new careers – and lives. He’s seen many of his friends, family and colleagues go in and out of the system, and knows from experience what they have to do to succeed.

“It’s been documented that what happens in the first 72 hours after release has the greatest impact on whether an individual recidivates,” he says. “That timeframe is critical: You either go to a shelter, go home to your family, or you fall back in with the ‘homies’ who got you into jail in the first place.”

That’s why housing and community support go hand-in-hand during the reentry process.

“We’re fortunate to have a relationship with the probation department. They often bring newly-released individuals to the Center so they can get the resources they need and avoid their old ways.”

Richmond residents also benefit from a fair-chance policy that makes it more difficult for landlords to discriminate against potential tenants with a criminal record.  This increases access to housing, which in turn makes it easier to get and keep a job.

“When you first come home, you often stay at a shelter and get a temp job. But soon enough, you find out your shelter has residency cap – 30 days. How can potential employers contact you if you’re bouncing back-and-forth without a phone or mailing address?”

Having a stable home makes a world of difference. No one knows this better than Tommy, a participant who has completed the Center’s 8-week Alpha Program, a comprehensive curriculum that serves people who are at the highest risk of recidivating. “I’ve been living in shelters so that I can save my wages for a deposit, and now I’m in the process of looking for a permanent place to stay, a studio in Richmond,” he says.

Tommy says that the Alpha Program changed his life, helping make jobs and housing accessible. “I learned to reenter home life and work life. Then, I got a full-time job – just one month after Alpha.”

“It gave me a second chance at a first-class life,” he says.

After nearly a decade in incarceration, Tommy knew there had to be a better way. “Being told what to do, when to eat…letting someone take control of your life…it’s no way to live. I robbed myself of so many opportunities to advance and be happy. But now, I feel different. I look different. I talk different. I’m out of the unemployment line, and that feels great.”

“Everyone has struggles, but when you surround yourself with positivity, you can overcome those struggles,” he says. “I’m so grateful for the Center’s positive environment, all of these positive people, and all of this new information that has brought so many good things into my life.”

Tommy ties most of his success to the people he has kept around him. “I always had emotional support from my family,” he says. “But the Center had my back. They told me I don’t have to go into this alone, and they stayed by my side.”

 “When you get out of jail, it can feel like you are a newborn baby. You’re naked. You have nothing. But you don’t have to see it that way. It’s only temporary. And you don’t have to fall back on your old ways, or with old, negative people.” You have to make a conscious choice.

“I’m an Eagle. And Eagles can fly. There’s a reason Eagles don’t hang out with Turkeys. Turkeys can’t fly. You have to keep people around you that give you strength.”

In other words, he draws energy – and strength – from the Center.

“I’m going to keep coming here until it closes down. And I hope that day never comes.”

Help Rubicon break poverty by donating or explore the full participant journey here.

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Rubicon’s November 2018 General Election Voter Guide

By Jonathan Bash October 18, 2018

Use the power of your vote to end poverty in the East Bay

On Tuesday, November 6th, 2018, voters across California will weigh-in on the state’s future by selecting new elected officials and approving—or rejecting—propositions and measures that impact all of our lives.

It’s crucial that we don’t sit on the sidelines; this election is far too important to be ignored. The future of criminal justice reform, housing affordability and the economy are at stake. Will our government work to end poverty, or will it simply accept the status quo?

That’s why Rubicon Programs believes that encouraging our participants, staff and community to participate in the process is absolutely essential to accomplishing our vision of an East Bay—and California—without poverty. Local elections like this one are where you can truly make your voice heard.


This Election Day, voters will be able to weigh-in on many specific policy proposals, and also select our local representatives. Rubicon carefully reviewed each of the propositions and measures on the ballot and we are sharing our positions with you. We have also provided a brief explanation—listed after our endorsements—for each of the offices on the ballot. We hope this will help you in your decision-making process.

Here are our endorsements for state and local propositions in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties:



Affordable Housing Bond. Prop 1 provides $4 Billion in housing-related programs, grants, projects and housing loans for veterans, the homeless and people with disabilities.  Since housing is the largest monthly cost to people in poverty, they will benefit the most from this easier access to affordable housing. More Information.



Homeless Housing Bond. Prop 2 authorizes $2 billion in bonds to fund the No Place Like Home Act of 2016 and permits unused mental health funds to be spent on services and housing for the homeless. Many people in poverty who have a mental illness will benefit from these funds. More information.



Water Bond. Authorizes $8.9 billion in bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects. Although Prop 3 provides funding for worthwhile water infrastructure and environmental projects, a handful of environmental groups are in opposition due to its impact on certain ecosystems and because it diverts some cap-and-trade funds away from climate change prevention efforts. Since there is disagreement among the environmental community, we encourage you to look closer at this measure and decide for yourself. More information.



Children’s Hospital Bonds. Issues $1.5 billion in bonds for improvements to children's hospitals. Prop 4 would help boost declining children's hospital infrastructure, with some funds specifically dedicated to Oakland Children's hospital. Many families on MediCal would benefit from these improvements. More information.



Property Tax Transfers. Prop 5 revises the process for home-buyers who are age 55 or older to transfer their tax assessments between counties when buying a new house of greater value. In effect, this measure would introduce a new property tax loophole that will reduce state property tax revenue by up to $2 billion, adversely affecting critical education and health services. More information.



Elimination of Road & Public Transit Funding. Prop 6 would repeal 2017's fuel tax and vehicle fee increases, and would require a vote on all future increases. Prop 6 would significantly lower investment in much-needed road improvements and public transit opportunities for people in poverty. Many of these projects are long overdue and would pose a safety risk – and cost in wear-and-tear – to drivers if repealed. More information.



All-Year Daylight Savings Time. Prop 7 would permit the state legislature authorize all-year daylight savings time with a two-thirds vote and approval from the U.S. Congress and the President. Some argue that this would lead to a later sunrise that could endanger children walking to school in the dark, and that it introduces costs and complications in aligning interstate business and air travel. Others argue that it could lower energy costs and the risk of heart disease. We encourage you to examine the issue further yourself. More information.



Cap on Dialysis Profits. Prop 8 would put a 15 percent cap on profits for dialysis service providers and was created in an effort to control healthcare costs. Unfortunately, the measure is written in a way that could make it difficult for many providers to include certain unavoidable expenses in their calculations for the cost of services, thus making the business unsustainable. This could lead to closures and fewer service providers, particularly in low-income communities, just as diabetes and kidney disease rates are starting to rise. We agree with the stated goal but are unsure of its practical impact, and leave it to you to weigh the pros and cons. More information.



Allows Local Governments to Institute Rent Control. Housing costs are skyrocketing across California and in the East Bay, and pose a clear barrier to people in poverty. By repealing the Costa–Hawkins Rental Housing Act, Prop 10 would give cities the option to intervene and implement more comprehensive rent control policies. This would provide municipalities with one more tool to tackle the affordable housing crisis. For that reason, we recommend support for Prop 10, and encourage policymakers to explore additional efforts to increase the affordability of housing. More information.



On-Call Ambulance Employees. Prop 11 would allow private ambulance providers to require workers to remain on-call during their breaks. Prop 11 would prevent ambulance costs from rising by approximately 25 percent, and ensures maximum coverage in communities that already have long response times. Unfortunately, it would do that at the expense of a worker’s opportunity to have an uninterrupted lunch and/or break period. We leave it to you to weigh the pros and cons. More information.



Farming Standards for Animals. Prop 12 would ban sale of meat from animals confined in spaces below specific sizes. Prop 12 helps many animals. It could also increase the cost of food, which will impact our clients. We leave it to you to decide. More information.



Parcel Tax for Childcare and Early Education. Early Childhood Education (ECE) is the number one preventive measure to end intergenerational poverty. Measure AA is a $198 per year parcel tax that would fund up to $30 million annually for preschool and other ECE services that can help break poverty in the East Bay.



Vacant Property Tax for Homeless Services. Measure W enacts a vacant property tax on parcels used less than 50 days per year, at annual rates of $6,000 per parcel, $3,000 for condominium units, and other specified rates; raising about $10,000,000 annually for 20 years; to fund homeless services. This will help alleviate homelessness while also incentivizing property owners to rent out properties, increasing the housing supply.



Eviction Protections. Measure Y extends just cause eviction protection to residents of duplexes and triplexes, and permits the city council to increase protections for tenants. This will benefit renters and people in poverty in particular.



Workplace Protections and Minimum Wage. Measure Z installs regulations to protect housekeeping and janitorial staff at large hotel chains, increases the hotel minimum wage to $20, and establishes a department to set additional workplace standards for non-hotel workers. This will benefit many of our participants who may take jobs in this industry and others, and generally encourages better treatment of workers in the City of Oakland.



Real Estate Documentary Transfer Tax Increase. Richmond Measure H will increase revenue for crucial city services by charging more on higher-value property sales and transfers. The tax will primary impact high-net-worth landowners and benefit average Richmond residents.


Vacant Property Tax. Richmond Measures T incentivizes the utilization of residential property, lowering the cost of housing in the long run by implementing a tax on vacant properties. Funds raised may be used to fund homeless services and housing, as well as blight and dumping elimination. Since the funds will be distributed by the City's Housing Commission, it is unclear what share of the funds will go to end homelessness, and how much could be spent on the clearing of encampments with no alternatives for people who are being moved.



The following local measures make essential investments in city, county or school operations, and in some cases, necessary facilities improvements. Each has a minor fiscal impact on the average individual – with most of these Measures primarily impacting high net-worth homeowners or purchasers of luxury goods. In exchange, the community and people in poverty receive a significant benefit to the local economy, their quality of life and their education.

  • Antioch City Measure W
  • Contra Costa Measure R
  • East Bay Parks Measure FF
  • Hayward Measure T      
  • Hayward USD Measure H            
  • Martinez Measure X      
  • Martinez USD Measure G
  • Mt. Diablo USD Measure J
  • Oakland Measure X
  • Peralta Community College District Measure E
  • Peralta Community College District Measure G 
  • Pittsburg USD Measure P



This Election Day, residents of Contra Costa County and Alameda County, including most of Rubicon Programs’ participants and staff, will also have the opportunity to vote for some of the following local elected officials:

  • The County Superintendent, who oversees school districts and provide education to incarcerated minors and those with special needs.
  • Community College Board Members, who manage East Bay two-year colleges and contribute to the development of the region’s workforce.
  • School Board Members, who manage the policies and budgets of our K-12 schools.
  • Special District Board Members, who manage our water, parks, public safety and sanitary districts.
  • City Councilmembers & Mayors, who oversee city operations like law enforcement and housing development, and write local laws.
  • Judges, who interpret the law and sentence in criminal proceedings.

They will also choose State Constitutional Officers and legislators, including the:

  • Governor, California’s Chief Executive, responsible for approving the state’s budget and implementing the state’s laws.
  • Lieutenant Governor, who serves as a critical member of the state’s many policy commissions, and fulfills the duties of the Governor when he or she is out of state or indisposed.
  • Attorney General, who prosecutes the law, determines who is charged with state crimes and plays a major role in shaping statewide criminal justice policy.
  • Controller, Treasurer and Board of Equalization Member, who each ensure the state pays its bills, invests its funds, and assesses its taxes responsibly.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction, who oversees California’s schools, community colleges and universities.
  • Secretary of State, who manages elections and the administration of business.
  • State Senator, State Assemblymember, U.S. Congressmember and U.S. Senator, each of whom write state and federal laws on legislation covering nearly every topic imaginable.

We hope that you - each of our readers and participants - study each of the candidates’ positions, so that you can identify and support candidates that reflect your priorities for criminal justice reform, early childhood education, affordable housing, and social programs as we all work to end poverty in the East Bay and throughout the State of California.

Please note, Rubicon does not endorse any specific candidate or political party. If you would like to compare all of the candidates, propositions and measures, and review nonpartisan, unbiased summaries online, please visit


Don’t Forget to Vote on November 6!

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 6, 2018.

If you have not yet registered to vote, be sure to do so by the state’s voter registration deadline for the General Election, October 22, online here. If you are unsure of your status, or wish to find your polling place, visit either the Contra Costa County Elections Office or Alameda County Elections Office online.

And remember, many individuals with a criminal record are allowed vote. If you’re unsure of you rights, check here for further information.

You can also vote-by-mail. Learn how by visiting the Contra Costa County Clerk or Alameda County Clerk. Additionally, Contra Costa residents may also vote at Regional Early Voting Sites located across the county.

Thank you for participating!

Sources: Maplight’s Voter’s Edge, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund's Easy Voter Guide, and the California Secretary of State, Alameda County Clerk-Recorder and Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder.

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Rubicon’s commitment to racial justice

By Lisa Dyas October 18, 2018

In 2015, Rubicon conducted its first org-wide cultural assessment. We knew that achieving our vision of an East Bay without poverty would take not only outstanding services for our program participants, but also carefully building a Rubicon culture and infrastructure that would empower every single employee to bring all of their talents to the table. 

The survey results were promising - our staff felt highly engaged to their work and to each other. What an overwhelming percentage of respondents wanted to better understand, however, was Rubicon's commitment to dismantling racism and systemic inequity in our communities.

To define our stance, a diverse group of Rubiconians came together over a period of six months to examine the history and legacy of racism in our country and communities. They looked at the ways systemic injustice has, and continues to, impede our progress toward achieving our mission. The Antiracism Stance grew out of their learnings, hope for the future, and Rubicon's unequivocal commitment to doing the hard work of calling-out racism where we see it - starting first with our own practices and workplace culture. 

Rubicon’s Antiracism Stance

Rubicon unequivocally opposes racism. We are resolved to explicitly and publicly affirm our identity as an anti-racism organization. We will understand and eradicate racism’s impact within our organization. We will ensure that prejudices and stereotypes do not creep insidiously into the work we do and how we do it.

We recognize that when we are not actively dismantling systemic racism, we are passively upholding systemic racism. Rubicon refuses to uphold a racist system which opposes our values of Hope, Justice, and Humility, and devalues life. We know that dismantling racism, in our lives, our organization, our field and our community, is a prerequisite to achieving our mission and upholding our values. We will lead or join the work to breathe life into a new system of equity.

We exist in a culture of white supremacy. A culture that requires people of color to explain themselves, to prove systemic racism’s existence, to demonstrate the gravity of its effects, and to justify the necessity of dismantling it. A culture that wields these tools solely to retain power and to divide and destroy. However, we are too strong and determined to allow people to be belittled, questioned, and silenced. We will not wield these tools any longer. We are crafting our own tools. We commit to uprooting the damage done by the culture of white supremacy and systemic racism while cultivating a more just society.

  • To cross the Rubicon is to commit to an irrevocable act. To that end, we commit to:
  • Examine and recalibrate inequitable power relationships and resource allocations throughout the organization
  • Foster full participation by people of color in decisions that shape Rubicon
  • Value the contributions and interests of employees of color in shaping our culture, and determining our policies and practices
  • Acknowledge in our work with participants that poverty is a result of oppressive systems
  • Engage each other through a daily ritual of mutual respect
  • Truly value racial diversity as an asset instead of simply tolerating or managing it
  • Confront and dismantle racism within the organization and the broader community
  • Earn community legitimacy as an antiracist organization
  •  Partner with others in combating all forms of racism

The work for justice and equity is informed by the backs of those who withstood lashes and beatings, endured genocide, internment camps, exploitation, and police brutality. We follow in the footsteps of those who bravely spoke out and demanded justice despite great risk. We expect discomfort and pain; no transformative change happens without it. However, we will not use that as an excuse to avoid this work; we will sit with pain and discomfort until equity is realized. When challenged, we will respond with love, passion, curiosity, tenacity, and a desire for shared growth, until we crumble the very foundation of systemic racism.

We will not always get it right, but we will always strive for what is right. We ask every person who reads this statement to help transform Rubicon and the communities we serve into places where we connect with Humility, act with Hope, and live with Justice.

Racism is the systematic oppression of people of color; occurs at the individual/internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels; may be overt or covert, intentional or unintentional.

White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

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The Rubicon Rangers: Welcoming Mayor Breed to the Fight to End Poverty

By Ben Rowley July 16, 2018

The "Rubicon Rangers" series is a first-person account of Rubicon's intern experience, authored by the interns, Jessica, Sandy and Justin, themselves.

On June 13th, London Breed became the first African-American woman ever to be elected Mayor of San Francisco. As an intern with an interest in policy and public affairs, I decided to pay close attention to her and her work in Rubicon’s area of expertise: poverty.

Soon after, a press conference was held in which she thanked supporters and other candidates, and took on the city’s problems with an optimistic approach, and a focus on ending poverty.

“It is time that we come together, and work together to solve our most challenging problems,” she said in her post-victory press conference. She promises to help solve issues like homelessness, addiction and many other longstanding problems, including housing.

London grew up in San Francisco dealing with many of these struggles herself. She has stated that she has firsthand experience dealing with many of the issues that low-income San Franciscans have to confront.

In her victory speech, she emphasized a poverty-free future as well as an interest in helping the youth of San Francisco.  Later on MSNBC, Breed continued to highlight the importance of youth getting actively engaged in the community, and talked about her plans for San Francisco’s – and California’s – future.

She made it clear that she likes to focus on people, and said that, “San Francisco is not just beautiful because of its monuments, it’s beautiful because of its people,” furthermore showing that she is not only proud of the city itself, but also of its diverse cultures and all that they can offer.

Mayor Breed often talks about the fact that her success story is an exception, and how she is pushing for that success story to become the norm for today’s youth in San Francisco. Since San Francisco has many large businesses, Breed wants to expose the youth to paid internships, so they can have opportunities and generate income that can help pay for their education.

Another issue that Breed spotlights is homelessness. While she is under the impression that the city is on the right track, there is still a big issue concerning how the city helps people who have a mental illness. She hopes to make changes to state and local laws and provide options for those working through addiction and psychiatric issues. One plan is to open safe injection sites in San Francisco, to help people avoid further medical issues.

To be successful as mayor, London Breed has said that she will need to learn patience, as being impatient is “a natural part of [her] personality.”

Even though a lack of patience may seem like a weakness at first glance, it could prove to be an indispensable quality when it comes to making housing affordable fast and getting other issues related to poverty resolved as soon as possible.

While at Rubicon Programs, I’ve learned that our organization aims to take a leadership role in the fight for a poverty-free Bay Area.

In the coming years, they will work in partnership with Mayor Breed, as well as mayors and nonprofit organizations across the Bay Area, and especially the East Bay, to push for policy changes that end the cycle of poverty. I look forward to being involved with these exciting efforts.

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Take Action to Keep Families Together

By Jane Fischberg June 27, 2018

At Rubicon, we are saddened and moved to action by the latest federal policies punishing children and families seeking refuge in the United States.

These federal actions victimizing immigrants and refugees are the epitome of hate and bigotry. 

Regrettably, these policies – which change daily – are just the most recent chapter in our nation’s shameful legacy of violence against people who look and act different from those who are in power. 

No matter where we’re from, what we look like, or what language we speak, we should all care. The legacy that this administration is perpetuating includes the scourge of slavery and its separation of Black children from their families. 

It includes the Native American boarding schools of the 19th and early 20th century, forcing apart Native American children from their families. During World War II, the federal government placed Japanese and Japanese-American families in internment camps in California. Today, we’re seeing an escalation of the mass incarceration of people of color. The most recent federal actions are but new methods to achieve the same unjust ends. It’s happening throughout the country, and it is happening right here in the Bay Area. 

As reported by Time magazine on June 22, the U.S. Navy is preparing plans to build immigrant detention centers at decommissioned naval bases in Alabama, Arizona, and California, including at the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS).  CNWS has been the subject of longtime plans to develop affordable housing, a move that would support families looking to thrive rather than tearing them apart.

On June 25, the Mercury News reported that two adolescent girls who have been separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” immigration policy are being held in a shelter in Contra Costa County.

The proposed conversion of the former base in Contra Costa County to an ICE detention center – pushing aside longstanding plans for affordable housing and replacing them with institutional hate – along with this news of the first detention of immigrant children in the Bay Area under the new policy, has only galvanized our commitment to advocate for justice.

Some say that the current hateful policies do not exemplify who we are. In truth, the policies are in keeping with a shameful national history.  But, we can end that legacy now, in our lifetimes, before more generations are persecuted, before more lives destroyed. Change is possible.

We can, and we must do this. Our children, and subsequent generations, are depending on us to heal our country and do the right thing by taking action.

Please join us on Saturday, June 30 to make the Bay Area a safe place for all families. More than 130 rallies are planned across the country – including many here in the East Bay.

Only through collective action can we stop yet another wave of hateful persecution, and instead advance justice, and hope.

Visit Families Belong Together now to find the event closest to you.

I hope you will join us in this effort to be on the right side of history by ending the unlawful detention of minors, people of color, and other groups targeted by those in power. ​

​In solidarity,



​Jane Fischberg
President & CEO

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