California prison officials were recently charged with culling the state inmate population, and it appears that women and children are going to come first. The Los Angeles Times reports that thousands of mothers in prison will be released soon. Reports indicate that depending on their crimes, some mothers will be allowed to serve the remainder of their sentences at home.
Nearly half of California’s inmate moms could go free
This reorganization of California prisons could affect nearly half of the state’s 9,500 mothers in jail, sources indicate. The move will help California meet a court-imposed deadline to alleviate prison overcrowding. It is believed that similar actions will be taken with regard to the 150,000-plus male inmate population and the fathers among them.
Depending upon the nature of the crime
Mothers convicted of “non-serious, non-sexual” crimes who have two years or less of remaining time could go home as early as next week, said California prisons spokeswoman Dana Toyama. GPS-enabled ankle bracelets and regular contact with parole officers will be required. Some inmates will be required to go into drug treatment programs. All will be permitted to hold jobs or return to school.
Supporters and skeptics
California State Prisons Secretary Matthew Cate called the plan to release mothers in jail “a step in breaking the inter-generational cycle of incarceration.” He argued that “Family involvement is one of the biggest indicators of an inmate’s rehabilitation.”
Yet numerous critics – prosecutors and victims’ advocates among them – have opposed the release program from the start. Harriet Salarno, founder of Sacramento-based Crime Victims United, and others believe that children would be better off in foster care.
“If they were such great mothers to begin with, they never would have committed the heinous crime that got them sent to state prison,” Salarno said.
Skirting the gender discrimination issue
California Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who drafted the 2010 bill that will result in mothers being released from jail, reportedly intended the legislation to have that effect. However, as Liu spokesman Robert Oakes told the Los Angeles Times, because more than 90 percent of California inmates are male, prison officials would be well-advised to expand the program.
“In crafting the bill, her intent was to single out female inmates with children,” Oakes said. “But that could not be done because of a constitutional ban against gender-based discrimination. So the phrase ‘primary caregiver’ was added to the bill.”
California prisons: ‘Below the standards of decency’
The Awl: http://www.theawl.com/2011/09/californias-prisons-only-for-single-ladies-now
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/ca-inmate-mothers-could-w_n_960923.html
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-prison-home-20110913,0,6210913.story
NSW Community News: http://nswcnna.blogspot.com/2005/02/children-of-imprisoned-mothers.html
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