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February 11, 2006

California has gendered alternative to prison as mass incarceration bills come due

The Los Angeles Times today has this terrific article about plans in California to "move 40% of the state's female inmates out of their cells and into neighborhood correctional centers."  The article is packed with fascinating information about women offenders and the state of corrections in the nation's biggest state.  Here are snippets from a must-read article:

The plan, most of which requires legislative approval, reflects a growing consensus among experts nationally that female inmates are ill served by a one-size-fits-all correctional system designed for violent men.  If adopted, the initiative would make California a leader among states remaking prison systems to reflect differences between the sexes.

The proposal also offers the state a way to ease the severe overcrowding plaguing the $8.1-billion correctional system.  With the total inmate population at an all-time high of 168,000 — enough to fill Dodger Stadium nearly three times — tensions on cellblocks are rising and wardens are wedging convicts into gyms, TV lounges, even hallways.  Almost every prison is packed to twice its intended capacity....

The large majority of female prisoners — about 66% — are serving time for nonviolent crimes, with an average stay in state custody of 13 months....  Like other states, California has seen a steady increase in its female inmate population and now houses 11,400 women — almost twice the number in 1990....

Officials said the typical inmate qualifying for neighborhood placement would be serving a sentence of less than a year for a crime such as forgery, burglary, auto theft, drug possession or sale, or driving under the influence....  An overriding goal of the policy change is to keep inmates more closely connected to their families, a link known to decrease the odds that an offender will commit crimes again....  Although the expense of housing women in neighborhoods would be lower than prison costs, the expanded services they receive would initially consume any savings.

February 11, 2006 at 09:03 PM | Permalink


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